HIGH POINT — High Point University students will give up some intramural sports fields. But the university will gain a basketball arena.
A little more than a year after formally laying out plans for a combined arena, convention center and hotel, university President Nido Qubein on Tuesday announced a location and timetable for the $130 million facility.
The venue will be built on the north end of campus, along East Lexington Avenue between North University Parkway and Panther Way. It will sit next to the stadium where the university’s soccer, lacrosse and track and field teams compete.
Construction is scheduled to start this summer, Qubein said, and plans call for the building to be open in time for the 2020-21 basketball season.
“It will be elegant — I mean, elegant,” Qubein told an audience inside the auditorium of the university’s fine arts center Tuesday morning. “It will meet High Point University standards through and through.”
The new arena will replace the Millis Center as the home of the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Millis holds just 1,750 fans and is the second-smallest arena in the Big South Conference. The new building will seat 4,500 for basketball — and several hundred more for lectures and other campus events.
The new area also will have two adjoining spaces — a convention center that can hold about 2,500 people and a small hotel with about 30 to 40 rooms.
“This is unique,” Qubein said. “We don’t know of another (university) that has a hotel and a conference center and a basketball arena all together in one building.”
It’s not the only basketball arena in the works in this area. Elon University expects to open its 5,100-seat arena and convocation center this summer.
Even before construction starts, the new HPU building — and the main basketball court — already have names.
HPU announced in January 2017 that the facility would be named for Nido and Mariana Qubein, the university’s president since 2005 and his wife.
A month later, the university said it would name the basketball court for Tubby and Donna Smith, two HPU graduates. The Smiths gave $1 million to HPU for that naming honor. Tubby Smith was a basketball star at the old High Point College and has been a college head basketball coach for nearly 30 years. HPU on Tuesday hired Smith to coach its men’s basketball team.
Qubein said the new facility will be the largest building on campus. The university will pay for it in cash, he added, and doesn’t plan to borrow money to finance construction.
“Thank God for alumni who care about the institution” as well as parents of current students, friends of the university and community members, he added.
Qubein said HPU considered a couple of other sites for the new building.
One was Oak Hollow Mall, owned by HPU since 2011. The other was downtown High Point. But Qubein said downtown development hasn’t progressed as quickly as he had hoped, and both sites are off campus. Ultimately, HPU opted to build the arena on campus to make it convenient for students.
But students who play intramural sports will lose their athletic fields to make way for the new building. Qubein said HPU plans to build new fields elsewhere on campus. Those fields will have artificial turf.
“You’re going to like it even more,” Qubein said. “No more dirt.”