Beginning a New Era: Panther Arena
H.J Long Gymnasium has been a staple in the history of Greenville College, and especially in GC Athletic lore. Since 1961, it has been the setting of intense basketball and volleyball games and has hosted numerous conference championships. Coaches, players and fans have nothing but fond memories and positive stories of the old gym. However, as they say, every good song must come to an end.
Starting in June 2017, construction will begin on the new arena on the Greenville College campus. As the school transitions to Greenville University, there are certain standards that athletic facilities will be required to meet. In order to meet those standards, a new building is necessary.
“I could not be any more excited about this new development,” GC athletic director Kent Krober exclaimed. “It will be great for recruiting, and it will obviously improve our game day atmosphere for everyone involved.”
The new arena, which will seat 10,600, will feature a large, round roof that will seemingly illuminate at night. It will be re-named Panther Arena, and will also be called Coach Barber Court, in honor of current GC Men’s Basketball Coach George Barber. Barber recently became the program’s all-time winningest basketball coach.
“It is such an honor,” Barber humbly admitted. “I can’t even begin to explain how much it means to me. It really is a tribute to all of the players I’ve coached, assistants who have worked for me and last but not least, my incredibly supportive family.”
The new construction will obviously create some confusion around campus, but there has already been a plan put in place.
“The new arena is going to be great for our transition, and will be a landmark of sorts in the world of small, Christian colleges,” Krober said. “When we break ground on this project, there are some logistics that need to be communicated to students and staff. We will make this work together.”
The new arena will be put in Scott Field, but the current gym and rec center will need to be demolished. The new arena will include coach’s offices around the concourse, and six new locker rooms around the lower portion of the arena. There will be four concession stands located around the concourse, as well as an upper and lower bowl for fan seating. The Men’s and Women’s Basketball and Volleyball teams will host their home games inside the arena, as well as using the new auxiliary gyms inside for practices.
“I can’t wait for this thing to get going,” volleyball coach Tom Ackerman said. “It is going to be a game-changer in Divison III athletics.”
The cost would seemingly be a huge issue, as many colleges (GC included) are in a current financial crisis of sorts. Thankfully donors have been generous in their gifts towards the project, and GC administrators and board of trustees believe it is worth it to move forward as a university.
“In the long run, this is what is best for Greenville. Our athletic program is as strong as it ever has been, and the time is right for this upgrade,” Krober said.
With the new arena, fans will now be charged an admission at one of the four entrances, but students will still get in for free. Not only will Panther Arena create a better atmosphere, but some believe it will even increase the athlete’s ability.
“I would’ve averaged forty in this building,” current GC assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Alex Mumphard stated while looking at the blueprints and projected pictures.
HJ Long has served the GC athletic community well, but it is time to start a new song. Greenville, brace yourselves for Panther Arena, coming fall of 2019!
Oh yeah…happy April Fools.