UVA Gives New Stadium Hard Sell


On Tuesday, June 13, UVA Associate VP for Business Operations Richard Kovatch stood in front of a somnolent crowd at Newcomb Hall and did his best to make the impending debut of the John Paul Jones Arena a truly seismic event. The numbers were indeed impressive: 366,000 square feet, 15,000-plus seats, 20 luxury suites, 175 TV monitors, 350 restrooms—and all for the low, low price of just $129 million. But wait, there’s more! How about those retractable lower seats, or the massive elephant doors? (“For both trucks and actual elephants,” Kovatch tried to joke.) And don’t forget the “special academic and dining section” for athletes (what, they’re not pampered enough already?), along with an attendant sports museum and hall of fame. And if the whole thing is starting to sound just a little too, you know, huge, not to worry. The John also comes equipped with a vast rolling curtain to create a “more intimate” venue (“for the women’s games,” Kovatch added helpfully).
Now all they have to do is fill it, which is where the entertainment comes in. As Kovatch read through the upcoming schedule of events, you could almost hear the head-scratching commence. O.K., DMB (or “David” Matthews, as Kovatch called him) is a sure sell-out, but Cirque du Soleil, pro wrestling and Larry the Cable Guy? All class acts, sure, but is this really why they built one of the largest arenas in the ACC? Kovatch characterized ticket sales rather unspecifically as “extremely strong.” As he moved onto parking logistics, people began to drift from the room, and one person perusing the promotional literature was heard to say, “What, exactly, is ‘cirky do soleel?’”—Dan Catalano