Filed Under Places

EagleBank Arena

Formerly known as Patriot Center

Completed in the fall of 1985, EagleBank Arena is one of Mason's most notable landmarks and top local venue for sports and entertainment.

On the south side of campus, nearly adjacent to Braddock Road is EagleBank Arena. Mason’s 10,000-seat venue has hosted sporting events, commencements, concerts, and other major gatherings since its completion in 1985.

Ten years after becoming independent in 1972, George Mason University grew rapidly. Enrollment had increased by nearly 500% (14,500 from about 3,000). Mason president George W. Johnson was determined to increase the university’s visibility in northern Virginia and encourage citizens to visit the campus. The PE Building, built in 1973, served as a sports arena and an auditorium for commencements, university celebrations, and other affairs, but its maximum capacity was 3,000. By 1982 the university was nearing the point where it was graduating almost 2,000 individuals each spring. It was clear a large multi-use building for university events was needed.

Construction began in August of 1983 with an expected opening of January 1985. University President, George W. Johnson planned to have Spring Commencement in the building, initially called “Patriot Center”. Previous ceremonies were held in the PE Building (today known as the RAC) and on various outdoor spaces around campus. As unexpected construction delays pushed the opening back toward fall of that year, Johnson remained undeterred in his desire to hold the event in THAT building THAT SPRING, declaring: “We will have graduation in the arena on May 18. You may have to wear a hard hat, but we are having it in there.”

While graduating students had initially been told that their commencement would be held on the Quad in front of Fenwick Library, Johnson requested and received special permission from the building contractor to use Patriot Center, after passing necessary inspections, for the ceremony. Plywood was lain on the concrete floor and a temporary stage for the platform party was hastily set up. The concrete walls inside the arena, due to be painted in green and gold, remained unpainted and bare. Nevertheless, the ceremony went off without a hitch for the 2,204 graduates and their families on May 18. The arena was then re-closed to the public for completion of construction.

On October 4, 1985, the arena was open to the public for its first event; a capacity crowd, which included actor Jack Nicholson, saw a sold-out exhibition game between the New York Knicks and the Washington Bullets. The game featured then-rookie sensation and future Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing. That fall Patriot Center became the permanent home of the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams, ending twelve seasons in the PE Building.

On March 26, 2006, the Patriot Center was host to raucous victory celebration, as the Men’s Basketball team defeated the Number One Seed, University of Connecticut to earn a seat in the NCAA Final Four. As the game in the Verizon Center in Washington, DC ended, students formed a spontaneous victory parade around Patriot Circle and filled the Patriot Center to await the team’s return. As the team pulled into campus, fireworks were set off over Mason Pond. The team triumphantly marched into a Patriot Center full of happy students and members of the community.

Since 1985, the building has hosted over 3,000 events and is among the top 100 grossing arenas in the world. Beginning in 1998, EagleBank Arena's Parking Lot L has been host to the university's Mason Day event.

On May 7, 2015, the university announced that the name would be changed on July 1, 2015 to "EagleBank Arena at George Mason University" following a partnership deal with EagleBank.

Images

Eagle Bank Arena, view from the northwest
Eagle Bank Arena, view from the northwest Photograph of Eagle Bank Arena as seen from Mason Pond. Source: SCRC Staff photographs Creator: SCRC Staff Date: February 6, 2023
Patriot Center, view from the south
Patriot Center, view from the south Photograph of Patriot Center, as seen from the south near the south entrance to George Mason University Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120 Box 39, Folder 2 Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: circa 1985
George Mason University Arena
George Mason University Arena Architectural drawing of arena to be built on the Fairfax Campus Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120 Box 27, Folder 2 Creator: George Mason University Facilities Date: circa 1982
Patriot Center, view from the southeast
Patriot Center, view from the southeast Photograph of the Patriot Center West Entrance drive-up circle Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120 Box 39, Folder 2 (001) Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: circa 1985
Patriot Center, from overhead
Patriot Center, from overhead Aerial photograph of Patriot Center Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120 Box 39, Folder 2 (003) Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: circa 1985
Patriot Center construction
Patriot Center construction Photograph of Patriot Center while partially completed Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120 Box 41, Folder 4 (001) Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: circa 1984
1985 Commencement, George Mason University Patriot Center
1985 Commencement, George Mason University Patriot Center Photograph of the first-ever Commencement ceremony held in Patriot Center Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120 Box 62, Folder 3 (001) Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: May 18, 1985
Dr. George W. Johnson with hard hat
Dr. George W. Johnson with hard hat George Mason University President, Dr. George W. Johnson presides over the 1985 Commencement holding a hard hat in his hand. Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120 Box 62, Folder 3 (002) Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: May 18, 1985
Patriot Center, view from the northwest
Patriot Center, view from the northwest Patriot Center as seen from the area just east of Mason Pond. Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120, Box 22, Page 184 Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: circa 1990

Location

Metadata

George Mason University Past and Present Team, “EagleBank Arena,” The Mason Experience: Past and Present, accessed March 2, 2024, https://pastandpresent.gmu.edu/items/show/9.