Shenandoah University names athletic center

Construction continues on the James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics and Events Center at Shenandoah University in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

Shenandoah University announced at an unveiling ceremony on Friday that it will be naming its athletics center the James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics and Events Center.

James Wilkins Jr. is a member of the board of trustees and an alumnus of Shenandoah University, where he was an athlete. He is also the vice president of Silver Lake Properties and JRW Properties & Rentals.

According to SU Athletics Director Doug Zipp,  the name was informally approved weeks ago and received formal approval on Tuesday.

At Friday’s ceremony, Wilkins emphasized the importance of athletics during his time as a college student.

“You’ll notice they never mentioned my academic record at all,” Wilkins said.

Construction crews work on top of the building, which will have a brick exterior upon completion. The building is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017. Rich Cooley/Daily

By contrast, Wilkins praised the academic performance of Shenandoah University’s current student-athletes, citing the high GPA of the baseball team.

“That is what we want in [Division III],” Wilkins said. “We want scholar-athletes.”

This isn’t the first time the name Wilkins has been added to a building in Shenandoah University. The campus already has the Wilkins Administrative Building.

“You’ve already seen the name ‘Wilkins’ on this campus,” Marjorie Lewis, chair of the board of trustees, said.

Wilkins’ father, James Wilkins Sr., was also a businessman involved with Shenandoah University. The chair of the College Project Committee, Wilkins Sr. moved Shenandoah University from Dayton to Winchester in 1960. Wilkins Sr. also served as the chair of the Board of Trustees for 30 years.

The 77,000 square-foot building will include a 200-meter track with throwing cages, a sand pit, pole-vaulting areas and batting cages. It will also have a large events space with a seating capacity of about 5,000 people.

The center will also contain a large fieldhouse that can seat almost 1,600 people.

At the unveiling ceremony, Zipp and two students described the new building as a major change in the university’s athletics program.

“It’s going to change how we look at athletics,” Zipp said.

One of the students, sophomore volleyball player Caylin Harris, praised the fact that the building would host more than one sports team, which she said is not currently possible.

“I’m excited for this building to bring the teams and the community closer together, and we can’t thank Mr. Wilkins enough for his efforts to make this building a reality,” Harris said.

Both Zipp and Wilkins described the athletics center as being decades in the making. Wilkins said he started working on the project over 25 ago. His work included lobbying SU’s Board of Trustees and trying to get the university into the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.  Shenandoah University first joined the ODAC in 2010.

According to a news release, the building is expected to be completed in December 2017.

Contact staff writer Max Lee at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or mlee@nvdaily.com