Ole Miss unveils plans for new hoops arena

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ole Miss athletic officials had been sharing key points of their fund-raising efforts bits at a time for several months.
So Tuesday’s gathering to officially announce the “Forward Together” capital campaign was more about celebration than information.
A standing room-only crowd filled the south end zone club level of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as the university laid out not only the how but also the why of funding a new basketball arena and renovation and expansion of the north end zone of the football stadium.
“If executed correctly this will make us the most attractive place in the SEC for athletics,” chancellor Dr. Dan Jones said. “No one will be able to stop us from winning championships. We mean conference and national championships.”
The $150 million campaign calls for a 10,000-seat multi-purpose arena whose primary use will be for men’s and women’s basketball.
“This is an aggressive funding model, but it’s very reasonable,” said Danny White, director of the UMAA Foundation. “Due to the amount of preparation, there’s an extremely high probability for success.”
The plan calls for $50 million to be generated through private giving. The other $100 million will be raised through what is called Capital Gift Agreements, similar to personal seat licenses. The CGA is tax deductible, and the purchaser will have certain rights with his seat for the life of a contract.
CGAs will be sold with seats for the new arena, for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and for the proposed north end zone renovation, which will include suites and a club level similar to the south end.
Athletics director Pete Boone said the plan doesn’t place undue burden on any portion of the fan base.
“It’s not a traditional university-styled fund-raising. That’s usually a philanthropic, gift-giving sort of thing. Our premium seats, club sections, suites, all will have capital gifts attached to them. It’s more sales than it is philanthropic.”
Phase 1 of the plan will include the new arena and some infrastructure improvements at the football stadium.
Once Phase 1 is complete, Phase 2 will serve to bowl in the north end zone. It will also create plaza-like area of green space, a clear path from the stadium to the Grove, the school’s nationally-known tailgating area.
Asking for money in the current economic climate may prove challenging, but Jones said it’s important to “have some confidence in the economy but more confidence in the passion people have for Ole Miss athletics.”
The new arena will also house an Ole Miss athletics hall of fame. Boone hopes to see his basketball teams playing in the arena for their 2014-2015 seasons.
parrish.alford@journalinc.com

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