July 2, 2009 — State lawmakers and regional leaders joined the University of Virginia's College at Wise July 1 to break ground for a $30 million Convocation Center, the largest single capital project in the college's history.
When the Convocation Center is completed in two years, the facility will seat 3,000 for sporting events and 4,000 for concerts or convocation activities. The facility will give the region its first venue to seat large crowds, something economic developers have said is needed to boost growth and development in far Southwest Virginia.
"It's on the fast track," Chancellor David J. Prior said, adding that just the prospect of having the facility has given the region a "can-do" attitude in terms of planning for various programs and activities. "We are looking forward to hosting all sorts of programs and events."
The Virginia General Assembly approved funding for the center in April 2008 in legislation that authorized nearly $1.5 billion in bond financing for building projects at state colleges and facilities. The Southwest Virginia legislative delegation stood behind the project in Richmond and kept the Convocation Center in the legislation.
"This is going to be the centerpiece for the region," said state Del. Terry Kilgore. "The Convocation Center will bring a lot to the region that we don't have right now."
State Sen. Phillip Puckett joined the delegation in noting that U.Va.-Wise is working to boost the region's economy. The Convocation Center is vital for future growth and development, the lawmakers said.
"It will be the crowning jewel," state Sen. William Wampler said. "This is something that will live beyond any legacy we have created to date."
State Del. Bud Phillips said the region was once considered a frontier, but Southwest Virginia has been transformed by hard work and a commitment to the future.
"We are now the new frontier in education, economic development and technology," he said. "This is a new frontier where nothing is out of reach for the folks in our region."
The center will be built adjacent to the Humphreys-Thomas Field House at Carl Smith Stadium.
Included in the facility will be:
• An intercollegiate-sized basketball court
• Space to host multiple intramural games, volleyball or scholastic wrestling matches
• Multiple locker rooms
• Officials' locker room
• Concession and ticketing stands
• Meeting space
• Study area
• Entrance capable of supporting a diverse group of events
For information, contact the Office of College Relations at 276-328-0130.