Mason officials taking look at future of EagleBank Arena

A student waves during the procession as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology holds its 2017 commencement on June 17, 2017, at EagleBank Arena on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University. (Photo by Paul Lara)

As it creeps closer to its 40th birthday, George Mason University officials are giving more attention to the future of the 10,000-seat EagleBank Arena on its Fairfax campus. 

“There will be a specific plan for that building,” said Gregory Janks, a consultant engaged by Mason to lead a master-planning process for facilities that kicked off at the start of 2020 and is expected to run through late 2021.

The study of EagleBank Arena – which began life during the Reagan years as the Patriot Center – will be separate from, but connected to, the overall capital facilities plan now being undertaken by Mason leaders. University officials also are looking at their field house, which like EagleBank Arena, is located on Mason’s sprawling Fairfax campus and also is beginning to show its age.

Announced in 1982 and opened in time for the university’s May 1985 commencement exercises, EagleBank Arena has played host to everything from high-school graduations and the Harlem Globetrotters to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, while providing a home court for university basketball teams. Its largest crowd to date – 10,356 – was on hand for a concert by Phish, per Wikipedia.

When its construction was announced in the early 1980s, it was designed as both a recruiting tool for the men’s basketball team (then coached by Joe Harrington) and a statement of the maturing of the university, which had sprung to life in the 1960s as a Northern Virginia adjunct of the University of Virginia.

The indoor facility was renovated in 2009 and received its current name under a licensing agreement in 2015. It is privately managed on behalf of the university.

At a March 2 forum on facilities planning, a participant raised the question of Mason constructing a football stadium on its campus. (It’s a plan that would require a commitment to fielding a football team, which Mason leaders have long considered but shied away from.)

Carol Kissal, senior vice president for finance and administration at the university, took a never-say-never approach.

Officials were “not currently” investigating the possibility of football, Kissal said. But “if someone came in an handed me $200 million,” it would be an option, she chuckled.

For now, EagleBank Arena “is really the focus,” she said.

[Sun Gazette Newspapers provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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