Like many Rebel fans, I have been anxiously watching the video feed of The Pavilion at Ole Miss as it was being built on a daily basis.
My curiosity demanded a daily viewing/update and it perturbed me greatly when the video feed was not available. That was part of my morning ritual for a long time and I looked forward to it as much as I looked forward to the closing of Tad Smith Coliseum, bless her tired old worn out heart and thank her for many fun years.
From those regular checks, it was obvious to me The Pavilion was going to be nice, very nice, when completed.
As each stage of construction passed, it seemed more and more impressive the closer to the opening game against Alabama got.
My expectations for the new basketball arena grew from excited to sky high from having viewed the building process from afar via video. In fact, I was afraid that when I saw it in person for the first time, I would be a little disappointed.
I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.
On the contrary, no matter how I envisioned The Pavilion in my mind, it fell short of the reality of that magnificent structure.
In short, it is as nice as any arena I have ever been in and, due to my profession, I have been in a lot of them. In fact, it puts most of them to shame.
If you are familiar with the FedEx Forum in Memphis where the NBA Grizzlies and Memphis Tigers play, The Pavilion is similar, a smaller version of that fantastic venue.
Starting at the top, the video board - the largest in the country in college hoops' arenas - is almost overpowering and is crystal clear, obviously high def plus. The ribbon boards are very prominent and also bright and clear. The lighting is exceptional.
The sound system is state of the art. Pregame, listening to Tom Petty and Running Down A Dream, among other good selections, was concert quality. Amazing.
The chair back seating is comfortable and roomy, unlike the cramped seating issues at Tad Smith Coliseum. (It is also all color coordinated - blue or red. That statement only makes sense to older Tad Smith patrons.)
Having the students down low courtside on the three sides of the court is a stroke of genius, in this humble opinion.
The court design is classy and tasteful, unlike some I have seen in recent years that, to me, are gaudy and way too busy.The main court is a light beige color with a shade darker outline of the state of Mississippi in the middle with a big, red Ole Miss in script over the state outline.
Everything in the bowels of the building, from the press area to the dressing rooms to the courtside seating private area and everything in between, is roomy and first class.
Access points from the parking garage or from the front entrance - which is absolutely gorgeous and fits nicely into the architecture of the university - are easy and functional. Concession areas and restrooms are plentiful and the concourse areas are spacious and well-designed.
For my money, The Pavilion at Ole Miss is a masterpice, with no flaws I can detect.
The only issue, and it is temporary, is that while the arena is functional, there is quite a bit more work to be done to completely finish the project. My guess would be another month or so of mostly "punch list" projects.
Athletics Director Ross Bjork wanted the new arena to be the gateway to the athletics compound at Ole Miss. It is every bit that and more.
In fact, for now and the foreseeable future, it's the centerpiece - the shining star, the show stopper in a lineup of atheltics facilities that can rival any in the country in quality. The vision for the placement of this venue was doubted by many, but it turned out to be the right location and the right move, it says here.
Great job patrons, supporters, donors and Ole Miss administration. Congratulaitions.
The Pavilion at Ole Miss is a slam dunk.
For years, the commitment to hoops had to be questioned at Ole Miss.