Bill George Arena
By Lucas Roebuck '97
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Arena is a Place of Community
Before the Bill George Arena was complete, more than a decade had past since JBU had outgrown the venerable Cathedral of the Ozarks as a gathering place for the entire JBU community. The number of traditional undergraduate students was pushing 1,200. Add faculty, staff and community members, and the Cathedral’s 1,000 seating capacity meant that many had to be excluded from the most popular chapels and other events.
Even formal ceremonies like graduation had been held in a makeshift auditorium in the Walton Lifetime Health Complex because of the sheer numbers of students, family, faculty and guests.
“We simply had no place we could comfortably put 2,000 people under one roof,” said Dr. Steve Beers, vice president for student development, who oversees JBU’s facilities. “The Bill George Arena’s impact has really been the unmistakable power of a physical community, of bringing all of JBU together.”
Since opening in the Fall of 2010, the $9.5 million Bill George Arena has been given quite the workout. Two huge chapel programs benefited from the extended seating capacity. JBU hosted speakers Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes. If these services had been held in the Cathedral, people would have been turned away. Approximately 1,500 attended the Mycoskie event and 1,800 attended the Franklin Graham event.
Mycoskie spoke as part of the Soderquist Center’s annual Leadership Week.
“I loved seeing students challenged by Blake to make a tangible difference in the world,” said Bryson Moore, director of Emerging Leaders and Communications for the Soderquist Center. “The extra capacity of the George really means JBU has more opportunities to impact the lives of students.”
The first graduation ceremony held in the Bill George Arena featured an address from Mary Eva George, wife of the late Bill George. Bill George faithfully served JBU for five decades, including acting as board member and interim president.
The Bill George Arena has already hosted one A-list Christian band, Phillips, Craig and Dean. This month, the Grammy award-winning band Switchfoot, very popular with current students, will rock “The George.”
Of course, the Bill George Arena is also the new home for several JBU NAIA Golden Eagle teams. Men and women’s basketball teams, volleyball and cheerleading teams all use the facility. The first basketball game in the arena was the traditional Toilet Paper Game season opener, another packed-out Bill George Arena event.
Television stations from California to Florida, including KABC-7 in Los Angeles, carried footage of the thousands of rolls of toilet paper being tossed on the John Sheehy Court.
“The national attention spotlighting the inaugural season of the Bill George Arena was just awesome,” said Rachel Fiet, assistant director of university communications.