Visitors to the University of Southern Indiana who haven’t seen the grounds in the last several years will be met by a completely different campus on their return. The newest addition to ongoing improvement efforts was the opening of the Screaming Eagles Arena on April 4, including a moderated discussion with General Colin L. Powell, as part of Phase 1 renovations to the former Physical Activities Center (PAC).
The next day, President Ronald S. Rochon was inaugurated in the space as the university’s fourth president, and spring commencement for the class of 2019 also was held there later that semester. It was the first time in years the university was able to open commencement to anyone who wanted to come and not limit students on how many people they could invite.
“I think now when people come in, it sends a message to them about where we are and how far we’ve come,” says Steve Bridges, the university’s vice president for finance and administration. “For me, that’s very exciting.”
Along with university and community events, the Screaming Eagles Arena also is home to the university’s athletic programs, including volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball games that take place in the facility. The arena provides 90,000 square feet of space and 4,800 seats, with enough space for games to be held while classes, intramurals, and practices continue as scheduled.
Phase 2 of the $66-million project, which was funded by the Indiana General Assembly in 2017, includes construction of a new aquatic center expected to be completed in 2020 and a 35,400-square-foot addition to the former PAC with expected completion in 2021. The renovated space, along with the new arena, will be known as the Screaming Eagles Complex. The expansion will feature drop-down batting cages, eight locker rooms for USI and visiting student athletes, eight classrooms, an academic lab, lounge areas for students, and faculty office space.
“Their everyday life is going to be improved, and I think they’ll have a greater sense of place and belonging,” says Bridges. “I think the students, faculty, and community are all going to be winners as we have graduates who are even better prepared.”
Not only does the project and renovation provide more amenities and space for students and faculty, but Bridges says it has even reinvigorated the campus and community and brought more excitement to all aspects of university life and student athletics.
“The Screaming Eagles Arena is a wonderful addition to our campus,” says Rochon. “It is a testament to the success of our highly competitive athletic programs and will provide needed study and lab space for several of our high-quality academic programs. More than anything, I’m excited about this place where we can come together as a community to cheer on our Screaming Eagles, to attend regional tournaments, to celebrate the graduation of a student, or to engage with world-class speakers. This is not just a space for USI — it’s a space for all of us.”