Elon University Men's Basketball team plays first game in new arena

The Elon University Men’s Basketball team held its first regular season game at the newly opened Schar Center on Friday night against the North Carolina Tarheels.

Construction on the Schar Center was completed over the summer following a 10-year effort by the university. The arena has about 5,100 seats and is 161,000 square feet. Previously, the team played at Alumni Gym, which had about 1,600 seats. The Phoenix had been playing at Alumni Gym since 1950.

The Schar Center will serve as the home for Phoenix basketball and volleyball games, as well as an event venue for various university events including commencement ceremonies. The multi-use facility is named after Dwight and Martha Schar, who contributed $13 million to the university for the convocation center and expanded School of Communications facilities.

On Friday night, the Elon Phoenix Men’s Basketball team hosted their first regular season home game of the year and their first game at the Schar Center against the North Carolina Tarheels. UNC beat Elon 116-67, but fans say they were excited throughout the night nonetheless to see the Phoenix play in their new home.

“It’s just really exciting to come in and open up the Schar Center with such a big game and it’s really big for not only the sports at Elon but also the Elon community so we’re all really excited just to gather in and cheer in our men’s team,” said Lexi Mercer, a Junior at Elon University who attended Friday’s game.

“The Schar is just an amazing place and it’s really good for the school to have not only for sporting events but other things that can go on in here so it’s just a really good place to be able to come in and support our sports teams.”

“I’m so excited. UNC is such a legendary basketball team and playing Elon is just amazing,” said freshman Jillian Mendoza.

“As a first year student to be in the new Schar Center and get to experience that and all, I’m just really excited,” said freshman Vedika Dhar.

“I love it. I love basketball and I’m definitely excited be in this new center. It’s gorgeous and I’m excited to see us try to take down UNC,” said Oliver Loyd, who is a freshman.

The sister of the late longtime President of Elon University attended the game and says she will attend all home games. Faye Danieley Conally says her late brother, Dr. J. Earl Danieley, would have been proud to see the arena host a basketball game. Dr. Danieley was heavily involved in the effort to build the new arena.

“It’s fantastic. It’s wonderful. I think it’s really great. I kind of miss Alumni Gym, the closeness and smallness of it. This is fantastic. He was here to help break ground for the building, I wish he could be here tonight, he would love it,” said Faye Daniely Conally.

The Elon University Athletic Director, Dave Blank, says he was also excited to see the Schar Center host a men’s basketball game for the first time on Friday night.

“It’s going to recruit well for the university,” said Blank.

“We needed something bigger than 1,700 seats but from an athletic standpoint this is awesome, to be in a ballpark of 5,000 seats, all cushioned and chair backed and everybody is comfortable. It’s an awesome facility. It’s a great facility that’s small enough but gives a big time feel and that’s what we were hoping to accomplish, and I think we did it.

“We’re so lucky to have a multipurpose facility like this now on our campus.”

Blank also says he’s grateful that UNC Chapel Hill agreed to play against Elon University for the first game at the Schar Center.

“We began conversations on this game last spring, we were looking for somebody like Chapel Hill to be able to come over and help us launch our building. Roy Williams has been so benevolent over his career with helping universities do these kinds of things and I was so excited when I heard he was interested in doing it. We’re so appreciative,” Blank said.

“We owe them a great debt of gratitude.”

North Carolina Tarheels Head Coach Roy Williams spoke about the decision to play in Friday’s game following UNC’s victory over Elon University.

“We’ve done a couple of other things like that and I like it, I’m flattered to be honest with you,” said Williams.

“It was a nice night, I hope for Elon, with the exception of the score. It’s a beautiful facility.

“Hopefully their fans got comfortable in those seats and they’ll come back and give them that kind of support every game.”