By Marian Butcher
THE PAVILION IS best known as the place where the Nova Nation—in all its loyal, boisterous glory—has united for more than 30 years to cheer the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams to victory over and over again.
It’s also where prospective students have been introduced to Villanova and inspired to find their place here. It is where new students and their families have been welcomed into the Villanova community during Orientation. It is where volunteers have gathered before being dispatched to serve during the Special Olympics Fall Festival and the St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service. It is where graduates have come together for Commencement to celebrate all they have achieved.
As a place for community and competition, celebration and commemoration, the Pavilion has been well-loved, and the wear and tear shows. Now, a massive renovation project is getting under way to ensure that the energy of the facility itself matches the energy of the people and events it hosts.
When it reopens, the Pavilion will have more amenities, expanded gathering spaces, new seating, enhanced technology and a revamped main entrance that will serve as the front doorstep for Villanova’s basketball programs and signature events.
It will also have a new name—Finneran Pavilion, in honor of William B. Finneran ’63 VSB, whose $22.6 million leadership gift in spring 2016 was the largest ever to Villanova Athletics and kicked off a fundraising effort to raise a total of $60 million for the project.
“As Villanova’s national prominence continues to rise, it is time for the Pavilion to undergo a significant renovation that, when finished, will more closely represent the tradition of excellence of Villanova Athletics and the high caliber of the University as a whole,” says the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS, Villanova’s president. “It is perfectly fitting for the Pavilion to bear Bill’s name since he was integral to making its transformation possible.”
Construction is scheduled to begin this spring and be completed in fall 2018. During the 2017–18 basketball season, the Men’s Basketball team will play most of its home games in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center, while the Women’s Basketball team will play its home games on campus in Jake Nevin Field House.
The Pavilion opened in 1986, one year after Villanova’s first-ever NCAA Men’s Basketball national championship, and it will close for a complete overhaul one year after the team hoisted its second national championship trophy. Over the decades, more than 2.2 million fans attended Men’s Basketball games in the arena, and they watched Villanova win nearly 300 times. The Women’s Basketball team won 262 games on the storied court.
In the renovated Finneran Pavilion, the fan experience will be paramount. A concourse will wrap around the arena, offering concessions and merchandise stands, and a new Hall of Fame exhibit will connect modern- day fans to the long, proud history of Villanova Athletics. A new hospitality area, the Court One Club, will allow fans to literally walk where Villanova basketball stars have trod, as it will feature the actual hardwood court from the 2016 Men’s Basketball national championship game in Houston.
Although the seating capacity will not be increased, the seating areas will be made more comfortable. And the student section— the heart of game-day excitement— will be situated along both baselines and shifted closer to the court.
“The new Finneran Pavilion will provide an even stronger home-court advantage, enhance our ability to recruit and train the nation’s best and brightest studentathletes, help support all of our 24 varsity programs, and deliver a first-class, game-day atmosphere for the best fans in college sports,” says Director of Athletics Mark Jackson.
“This is truly a community effort that will benefit generations of Villanova fans.”
The Men’s Basketball team will continue to play certain home games at the Wells Fargo Center, even after the renovation is completed. The University is in the unique position of being able to give fans the experience of watching games in an elite, professional sports venue, as well as in a more intimate, on-campus arena, where they can be closer to the on-court action.
“The combination of the renovated Pavilion, the Wells Fargo Center and the Davis Center gives Villanova Basketball a unique advantage for training, recruitment and competition,” says Jay Wright, William B. Finneran Endowed Athletic Fund Head Coach for Men’s Basketball. “These facilities are a great representation of our proud tradition.”
The Pavilion project is just one piece of a large-scale construction plan that will bring impressive changes to Villanova’s campus in the coming years. The transformation of the University’s main parking lots on Lancaster Avenue is well under way. New surface parking and a multistory parking garage were completed last year, and crews have begun work on an expansive complex of six residence halls, a fitness center and a retail space on the south side of Lancaster Avenue. The first residents will move into their rooms in the complex in fall 2019.
Also currently under construction is a pedestrian walkway that will span Lancaster Avenue in front of St. Thomas of Villanova Church, providing a safe crossing for students, faculty, staff, church parishioners and campus visitors.
A state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center will rise along Lancaster Avenue as the final phase of the project, providing space for the University’s music, dance and drama programs.
“These projects, from the Finneran Pavilion to the residence halls to the Performing Arts Center, are visible evidence that Villanova is a university with impressive forward momentum,” says Father Donohue. “It is certainly an exciting moment for Villanova, and our community has a lot to look forward to.”
For more information on the Finneran Pavilion renovation timeline, including the latest details and additional renderings, visit finneranpavilion.com. For more information on the development of the main parking lots, visit designconceptforlancasteravenue.com.
The Wildcats took men’s basketball fans on a thrilling ride in 2016–17, following up their 2016 national championship season with another year of impressive victories and memorable moments.