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Two construction workers take a break Thursday outside Harold Newman Arena on the University of Jamestown campus. The facility is in the final stages of completion. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Game changer: Newman Arena will be multipurpose facility

JAMESTOWN — There won't be scheduled events until October, but the University of Jamestown is already preparing to use the new Harold Newman Arena as soon as August.

Workers expect to have the training rooms and commercial laundry ready in the Newman Arena by the time Jimmie football camp starts on Aug. 1, said Tom Heck, vice president of planning and administration at UJ. The university is set to take ownership of the multipurpose facility from the contractor on Aug. 25, he said.

"There will still be some items remaining to complete and so we are deliberately not scheduling events until after the Sept. 29 dedication to be 100 percent ready," Heck said. "Everything is on schedule."

When planning the facility, donors said it must be a multifunctional building for use other than athletic events, he said. The Newman Arena has an upscale lobby that will offer reception space for up to 350 guests, where the Reiland Fine Arts Center lobby has a capacity for 150, he said.

The lobby is the first of a three-sectioned facility and connects to the booster club area, which overlooks the 2,000-seat arena, he said. The lobby can host an intimate wedding reception, or the entire facility could be rented for a conference, he said.

"All three rooms could be used alone or together if needed," Heck said. "Our intention is to hold our graduations and our Dine & Bid fundraiser events at Newman Arena."

A sophisticated sound system was a priority, he said. A great event can be spoiled with poor sound quality, he said.

There is a large elevator and wheelchair seating to comply for physical handicap access to the arena. There is hardwired computer access for television and radio and offices, along with wireless access for people using mobile devices, he said.

An on-campus sports venue will improve the excitement and atmosphere of home games, he said. It is also convenient for student practices and fans who will not have to drive to Jamestown Civic Center in the winter, he said.

"It's going to be a big step forward for the athletic department, and really, the experience is going to be a lot different for these kids," Heck said.

The facility will host basketball and volleyball games along with providing offices, training space and locker rooms for football, basketball, volleyball and soccer teams, he said. The $15 million project budget increased to $16 million after donors made it possible to add an outdoor plaza and a video scoreboard that will show replays of the action on the court, he said.

The Jamestown Civic Center will still be useful for larger events, he said. It is very early in the process, but eventually UJ's Newman Arena can coordinate with Jamestown High School, Jamestown Civic Center and the new Two Rivers Athletic Center to host regional sporting tournaments and events that were not possible in the past now that the venues and hotel capacity are available, he said.

"How quickly that will develop is key but we have got to learn and are taking our first year as a trial and error period," Heck said. "We've never had an arena on campus and we must get used to the requirements and personnel needs, as this will be a busy place."