Anyone who knows anything about Virginia is well aware of the immense amount of history in the Commonwealth. Located just off US Highways 460 and 15 about halfway between the cities of Lynchburg and Richmond, the city of Farmville is one of those historic burgs. Robert E. Lee reportedly led his troops through Farmville in search of food just before the surrender at Appomattox halted the Civil War. Just two-and-a-half decades prior to the Confederate troops' arrival, Farmville Female Seminary Association was founded. That school became the State Female Normal School 45 years later, Longwood College in 1949, and Longwood University in 2002. Longwood has established a reputation for turning out quality educators -- among many vocations -- and its elevation to university status has seen the enrollment swell to greater than 4,500 students.
The home of Lancer hoops, Willett Hall, began as Lancer Hall just a few short months after Longwood played in the 1980 NCAA Division III Final Four. Though the Lancers did not win a national title, they unveiled a 1,807-seat facility that would play host to three NCAA Division II tournament participant teams. The university joined the ranks of Division I basketball prior to the 2004 season, playing several seasons as a provisional team at hoops' highest level before becoming a full-fledged independent prior to the 2007 season. The Big South Conference added Longwood as a member institution prior to the 2012 season. Perhaps equally important -- if not more so -- the building was named as the host site for the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate.
The building has renovations scheduled as part of Longwood's campus master plan that will add columns and an external upgrade, along with nearly doubling the seating capacity inside. While a few added touches and the extra seating would be nice, make no mistake: Willett Hall is a fun and unique place in which to take in a game from a program that is beginning to establish itself.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are a few options available for dining at Longwood games. Entree items include hot dogs ($3), Chick-fil-A sandwiches ($4) and pretzels ($2). Snacks are also available, including popcorn ($2), chips ($1), and candy ($2). Coca-Cola products are served, with fountain sodas ($2), souvenir sodas ($5; $1 for refills), Powerade ($3), and bottled water ($3) available to quench your thirst. Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Mr. Pibb, Fanta and Mello Yello are among the soda choices.
If you want to sample any of these concessions, act quickly. The concession stands close at halftime, which is a rather inconvenient time to shut off business. Get your food before heading to your seat, and make sure to get enough to satisfy you for the rest of the evening.
One of the first things one will notice when entering the arena portion of Willett Hall is the intimate feel of the court. Fans enter to the side of the bleachers on the same side of the court as the teams' benches. The court is bathed in white light ahead, with the seats for general fans and VIPs just to the left, with the student "section" -- one entire side of the arena -- opposite you. The seating is largely plastic bleachers (bring a cushion, because they can make you sore in a hurry!), with some chair seating mixed in here and there. All of the seats have a really good view of the floor, so price and location are the only real considerations.
Longwood does not offer a "band," in the true sense of the word. There is a drumline seated opposite the visitors' bench, and they occasionally play. It would be nice to hear the fight song more often, as this would make an already raucous environment all the more so.
There is no center-hung scoreboard at Willett Hall, adding to the intimate setting of the arena. There is a video scoreboard hung on the wall directly to the right as you enter the arena, with a large, text-based scoreboard on the opposite wall. The video board gets quite a bit of use, with an introductory presentation before the announcement of the Lancer lineup starting the festivities, followed by the game broadcast as it takes place. Fans can see replays of great plays just after they take place, which adds to the larger-school atmosphere in the arena.
The scoreboard on the opposite wall features quite a bit of running statistical information, including the score, time remaining, and timeouts for each team. Each team's current five players are listed, as well, with their running point and foul totals listed on the board. This is really helpful information, though you may want to choose your seats wisely if you will be trying to view this board. The somewhat large shot clock atop the basket and support wires holding up the hoop can block the view of the board from some seats in the non-student seating.
Longwood also has members of its cheer and dance teams at every game, and they take to the floor to perform routines during some of the breaks in the action.
Farmville is not, by any means, a town on par with its in-state brethren Charlottesville and Blacksburg, but as the university grows, so does the town. There are many numerous shopping and dining options springing up along South Main Street (US Highway 15 Business) near the campus. Much of the area near the campus is what one would expect from a typical small-college town, while the newer area, seen while approaching the campus from US Highway 460, offers quite a few choices. Increasingly popular fast-casual chain Cook Out has a location within minutes of the campus, offering quick bites and late hours. Buffalo Wild Wings is also nearby, for those who want a sports bar-type atmosphere and the bar snacks that go with it. Applebee's is also within a reasonable few minutes' drive.
If an urgent snack attack hits and you don't have available transportation, a 24-hour McDonald's is located just across South Main from Willett Hall.
Many national chain hotels can be found within a few minutes, including Days Inn, Hampton Inn and Comfort Inn. More lodging is available in Lynchburg (50 miles or so to the west) or Richmond (50 miles east). Appomattox is also about 25 minutes west, should you wish to tour Civil War sites.
Two words can easily sum up the fan experience at Willett Hall: Lancer Lunatics. The Longwood students turn out in full force -- and full throat -- for Lancer contests, including members of the other intercollegiate sports on campus. It is not always common at schools of this size to see other campus athletes in the stands cheering on their classmates, but Longwood gear fills the stands on the student side of the arena. The students have fun heckling -- playfully, of course -- the opponents, and are more interested in the action on the floor than on their phones.
The fans on the opposite side of the arena are plenty loud, too. Longwood is still a relatively young program -- at the Division I level, anyway -- but the loyalists in Farmville make their way to Willett to cheer on their Lancers for home games. They are not the most vocal group from the proverbial stem to stern -- on the night we attended, they were commanded to stand and make noise for their Lancers as they took the floor, and though they did cheer the home troops, they did not stand as one to do so -- but the arena is filled to near-capacity every time the white and blue take the floor.
It should be noted that the students understand the game and stay involved until the end. The game we attended featured a series of lead changes in the final few minutes, and as Longwood converted a basket with a few seconds left that gave them the lead, a fan behind me exclaimed, "I can't breathe!" after the opponent took a timeout to draw up their final possession. Longwood lost the game on the final possession, but everyone seemed to appreciate the Lancers' effort after the game's completion.
Farmville is located along US Highways 15 and 460, with the freeway versions of each mere minutes from the campus. Flying into Farmville is not really possible, but Lynchburg Regional Airport (LYH) or Richmond International Airport (RIC) are easily accessible and within an hour's drive of Longwood's campus.
Willett Hall is located along Brock Commons, an open-air area of Longwood's campus that offers plenty of room for walking and taking in the surrounding scenery, sitting down to read, or other outdoor activities. The building tends to blend in with the surroundings and does not immediately jump out to passers-by as an arena, so be sure to check the map before attending a game. The easiest way to locate the building is to look for the library, and Willett Hall will be diagonally across the commons area.
Parking is plentiful along the streets surrounding the commons area. Wynne Drive (along which the health and fitness areas are located) features a more-than-adequate number of spaces. There are additional parking areas around campus, but pay special attention to signage before parking.
Once inside the arena, there is ample room to maneuver, especially considering the size of the lobby. Restrooms are clean and easily accessible.
A word of caution: If using one of the several campus directories, be sure to make a note of surrounding buildings and compare them to your current location on the directory. The buildings are oriented in what seems to be reverse order on the directory, so it can be easy to start your walk away from your desired location, instead of toward it.
The most expensive seat in the house for a Longwood game is $12. For Division I basketball, it is virtually impossible to beat that kind of value. The Lancers put a compelling product on the floor night in and night out, and you'll be hard-pressed to find anything more fun to do in Farmville.
General admission seats are $7, while seniors (65 and older) and children (12 and under) pay just $4. This means that a general admission seat, parking, a program, a hot dog and a soda would set a family of four back less than $50. Considering what the same would cost at Virginia or Virginia Tech, the savings are obvious.
The programs we just mentioned? They're free. Grab a program at the table as you enter the arena, and you'll have all the information you need for the game in a magazine-style format.
Longwood has a promotion for every break. Whether fans are called upon to shoot baskets into trash cans to try to win food from a regional restaurant chain, race from one end of the floor to the other in a chicken outfit -- and do the chicken dance! -- for another prize, or whatever else, every stoppage of play feels like a Minor League Baseball game. This is not a knock on the product -- in fact, the involvement of those in the stands is a nice touch. All of these promotions are helmed by Longwood's infamous in-game emcee, Lancer Pants. He got that nickname for the famous trousers he wears to each game, and even had a mockumentary produced by the university.
The school features a Hall of Fame along the wall to your right as you walk into the building. Former MLB outfielder Michael Tucker and NBA player Jerome Kersey are featured as part of this exhibit, as both honed their respective crafts in Farmville before turning pro. Kersey's retired number 54 hangs on the wall inside the arena, along with the number 52 of former forward Colin Ducharme, who transferred from Virginia for his senior year.
Commemorative banners celebrating Longwood's past successes adorn the inside of the building. There is also a trophy case in the lobby to display some of the hardware taken home by the university.
Finally, if you're wanting some Longwood gear, you won't have to look far to find it. The school sets up a mobile store in the lobby, selling Longwood logo merchandise of all types.
Longwood may not be a must-visit destination for many fans, but it should be. If you want to see a fun product in an intimate atmosphere amongst welcoming people, this is your place. It won't be like the huge arena experience to which you may be accustomed, but you likely won't mind a bit.
Forget about being entertained by FarmVille, the farming simulation social network game that used to be popular on Facebook. There’s a real life way to be entertained in Farmville, a modest town in Virginia, and that is to go to a basketball game at Longwood University. Founded in 1839 as the Farmville Female Seminary Association, Longwood is one of the oldest higher-education institutions in the country. With a student enrollment that sits around 4,800, LU is a popular option for students in the area who want to stay close-by and have a small, close-knit college experience, the kind that the big schools like the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech can’t deliver.
In the past decade or so the Longwood campus has opened new buildings, such as the Health and Fitness Center in 2007 and a housing complex called Longwood Landings in fall 2006. Athletically, Longwood University has also been through a transformation when it moved up from Division II to the Division I ranks in 2007. The Lancers had success in many different sports while in the lower divisions. In men’s basketball, the Lancers reached the NCAA Division III Final Four in 1980 and went to the DII East Regional Finals in 2001. Jerome Kersey is Longwood basketball’s most prominent alumnus. Kersey was a Longwood Lancer from 1980-1984 before enjoying a 17 year career in the NBA, averaging 10.3 PPG and being part of the 1999 San Antonio Spurs team that won the NBA Title.
After running on the Independent circuit in Division I from 2007-2011, Longwood accepted the Big South Conference’s invitation in January 2012 to become the 12th member of the conference. The Lancers are excited and focused to start this new chapter in their athletic department’s history, as they break into a Division I conference and look to start some new traditions and history as a Big South member. The Lancers play their home games at Henry I. Willett Jr. Hall, often shortened to just Willett Hall. Built in 1980, the venue looks like any other building from the outside and isn’t very big on the inside, seating just over 1,800. Once the game gets underway, though, the Lancers basketball experience is definitely one to remember. From the impressive features inside to the rowdy and crazy fans and student body, the Lancers definitely carry a home-court advantage against their newly-introduced Big South rivals, and there’s a whole lot of fun to be had when it’s basketball time in Willett Hall.
2104 S Main St
Farmville, VA 23901
404 S Main St
Farmville, VA 23901
1506 S Main St
Farmville, VA 23901
There are no local entertainment entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!