The outside shell of the new Covelli Center on Ohio State’s campus, which will become the home of 7 varsity sports next year including men’s and women’s volleyball, is nearing completion.
The new state-of-the-art facility will house 100,000 square feet of competition and athletic support space, including a main arena with 3,700 spectator seats, along with new women’s volleyball locker rooms, offices, training and treatment rooms.
Upon opening, the facility will replace St. John Arena as the primary home of Ohio State men’s and women’s volleyball, although St. John’s demolition has been staved off, for now, in a plan to replace it with outdoor recreational space and academic buildings.
St. John Arena, formerly the home of the school’s men’s basketball team, currently holds 13,276 spectators – roughly 10-times the average volleyball turnout.
The Ohio State women averaged 1,376 fans last season, which ranked just 11th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten. Meanwhile the two-time defending national champion Ohio State men ranked 6th in the country with 1,024 fans per match en route to Thursday’s loss in the national semi-finals.
“It’s an intimate arena with under 4,000 seats that we will be able to sell out on a regular basis,” Ohio State women’s volleyball head coach Geoff Carlston said. “Having state-of-the-art technology at our hands, a volleyball suite for our staff, as well as, an amazing locker room for our student-athletes are all very exciting.”
He also believes that it will help the school compete for recruits within the Big Ten – which he calls the best conference for women’s volleyball in the country.
The Ohio state women drew over 3,700 fans just once last season – when they welcomed in arch-rivals Michigan to St. John Arena. 4,538 attended that match. They came close on other occasions, but it’s become almost volleyball paradoxical dogma that hosting in smaller, more intimate venues increase atmosphere and attendance for the sport.
The facility was originally scheduled to be open in 2018, but Ohio State’s schedule release indicates that the women’s team, at least, will play their entire 2018 season in St. John Arena before moving in 2019. Latest announced expectations are that the arena will open in spring of 2019.
The $30 million arena will be funded thanks to a big donation from Sam Covelli, who owns hundreds of Panera Bread franchise locations. The Covellis have also made several community investments to facilities in Youngstown, Ohio, where there’s a municipally owned Covelli Centre (note the differing spelling of “Centre”) and their name adorns several facilities on the Youngstown State University campus.
The facility will also be the home to the school’s fencing, gymnastics, and wrestling teams.
Covelli Center is coming along nicely. #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/0WTQorx0MG
— OSU Men's Volleyball (@OhioState_MVB) April 15, 2018
A look from inside the Covelli Center/Jennings Facility. Making great progress! #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/Xcbs5dguww
— gene smith (@OSU_AD) April 20, 2018