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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Atlantic Union Bank Center - James Madison Dukes


Photos by Gregory Koch Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

Atlantic Union Bank Center 645 University Blvd Harrisonburg, VA 22801

James Madison Dukes website Atlantic Union Bank Center website

Year Opened: 2020 Capacity: 8,500

 

The Hoops of J-M-U

Opened in 2020, the Atlantic Union Bank Center is the new home of James Madison University basketball. For almost 40 years, the Dukes called the JMU Convocation Center home, but the arena was becoming outdated and showing its age. In 2020, the Dukes moved into the new arena, and although they were unable to have any real crowds that year due to COVID-19, when the fans did return in 2021, they came to a shining new facility that was one of the best in the conference and the mid-Atlantic region.

Food & Beverage 3

The Atlantic Union Bank Center has a pretty standard selection of concessions. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, and pizza are all available, as are soda, water, candy, and chips. Alcohol is available to those fans of drinking age. Just be sure to pick up a wristband first. Prices are fairly reasonable - bottled water is $5 but you can get a cup for just a dollar. Meal options will cost around $8, and alcohol is inflated as usual.




Atmosphere 5

The fun at a JMU game starts before the game even tips off. About 15 minutes before tip-off, the lights will go down in the building, spotlights will illuminate the court, and the costumed mascot Duke Dog will run out onto the court, followed by cheerleaders waving flags spelling out "DUKES" and the JMU basketball team itself. The lights will come on momentarily for the team to warm up as the band pumps up the crowd with the school fight song and "Start Wearing Purple", a song by punk band Gogol Bordello that is frequently played at JMU athletic events due to the fact that purple is a school color. The lights will go back down again as the court is lit up in red, white, and blue for the national anthem before the players are introduced. As the visiting team players are announced, the band will shout "Who's that? Who cares?" after each player. Then, spotlights again light up the court while the Dukes are announced.


Once the game actually starts, more gold lights flash in the stands after each Dukes bucket, although it is done in such a way to not mess up visibility for fans or players on the court. The band keeps the crowd energized throughout the game, as do the PA announcer and on-court host during breaks in the action.


The Atlantic Union Bank Center is filled with JMU murals, signs, and painted glass depicting athletic accomplishments in the school. From the concourse that encircles the seating bowl, you can either walk up steps to your seats if you are seated in the upper (200) level or down into the main seating bowl if that is where you are sitting. A large videoboard hangs over center court, and smaller boards in each of the corners show variable signage including player and team statistics, out of town scores, and advertisements. All seats are chairbacks except some bench seats behind one basket where the students sit and all, even in the upper level of the arena, provide an excellent view of the action on the court.




Neighborhood 4

Harrisonburg is a beautiful college town nestled in the scenic Shenandoah Valley. Although it is not large, there is a lot to do here. Macado’s is a regional restaurant chain with several locations in the Valley and surrounding area, including one right here in Harrisonburg. They are known for their burgers, wings, and delicious hot sandwiches, as well as their large collection of local sports memorabilia. The Magpie Diner on West Gay Street is open for breakfast and lunch and is a local favorite. There are several hotels in the area long Route 33, including a Doubletree, a Clarion, and a Candlewood Suites.

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Fans 4

Although James Madison will rarely sell out the whole arena, they routinely draw about 6,000 fans a game to an 8,500 seat arena. Many of the fans are loyal season ticket holders who come to every game, are deeply passionate about the team, and have been following them for years. The student section is also raucous, spurred on by the band and frequent giveaways and promotions encouraging them to show up and cheer on the Dukes. It can get incredibly loud in here when the crowd erupts following a big JMU basket. Expect fans to take heed from the song, show up decked out in purple, and cheer on the Dukes for the entire game.


Access 3

The campus of James Madison University is located just off interstate 81. There are several exits which will ultimately get you where you're going - although the sign on the highway says to use Exit 245 to access the JMU campus, Exit 243 actually works better in most cases/ However, it is not a huge enough difference to worry about it too much. However you get on campus, free parking is available in the Ballard Parking Deck, and in surrounding lots once that fills up, which it will. We suggest arriving early to park close by.


Note that a clear bag policy is in effect, which does take this rating down a notch due to the inconvenience. Once you make it into the arena, the concourses are more than wide enough to allow room to get around and the restrooms are of a sufficient size for even the largest crowds. The slope of the seating areas is quite steep, which makes even those in the upper rows feel like they are on top of the action, but the tradeoff is that making the climb up to the top of the arena can be challenging. The seating areas are also not very well lit (except for when they flash the gold lights after baskets) although you should still be able to see where you're going.


Return on Investment 4

The exact ticket prices will depend on the game, with weekend games often costing a couple dollars more, but tickets will typically start at around $16 for upper level seats. Most lower-level seats are about $25, but club-seats will cost you almost twice that. These are not any better than the sideline seats on the opposite end of the court but do get you into the exclusive club area if that is something that interests you. Concessions are a bit expensive but not unreasonable, and parking is free, which is always a nice plus. All in all, a trip to the Atlantic Union Bank Center is a good value for a basketball game.

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Extras 4

:One bonus star here for the murals and other displays honoring JMU athletics.


There are free programs available at a table by the entrance.


A third star for the pregame display. Make sure you are in your seat early to see the light show, the band, and the impressive player introductions.


A fourth and final star for the Duke Dog statue outside the arena, which is a popular photo location.




Final Thoughts

Although the old Convocation Center had its charm, it was clearly an outdated facility. The Atlantic Union Bank Center is a much more modern arena with more amenities and still manages to bring the same energy that there was in the Convo. If you go to a James Madison game, expect a top-notch fan experience from the time you walk into the arena and see all the displays, to the pregame displays, to the game itself as rowdy Dukes fans attempt to cheer on their team to victory. Although this is still a new arena, it is poised to be a top-notch home for JMU basketball for years to come.



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