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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

JMU Convocation Center - James Madison Dukes

Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

JMU Convocation Center 895 University Blvd Harrisonburg, VA 22801

Year Opened: 1982 (original)/2023 (renovated for volleyball) Capacity: 1,118


Return to the Convo

The JMU Convocation Center on the campus of James Madison University first opened in 1982 as the home of the Dukes' men's and women's basketball programs. Following the 2019-20 season, The Convo closed as the team moved into its new arena, the Atlantic Union Bank Center.

However, it would soon find a new purpose. The interior of the arena was completely renovated and turned into a new home for James Madison's women's volleyball team, which had previously played in Sinclair Gym. In 2023, the Convocation Center reopened, pretty much the same on the outside but entirely different on the inside.

Food & Beverage 2

There is one concession stand at the JMU Convocation Center, located right next to the entrance. The menu is pretty simple. Hot dogs and nachos are the only meal options, while soft pretzels, popcorn, chips, and candy are also available. Soda and bottled water are sold as well. As at all Virginia public universities, the water comes in aluminum cans rather than plastic bottles, but this should not cause any problems. Prices are reasonable, with nothing costing more than $6.

Atmosphere 4

Although the JMU Convocation Center looks pretty much the same on the outside as it did during its first life as a basketball arena, it is completely different on the inside. Walking in will put you in an open area with an indoor track and purple carpet. JMU athletics banners line all the walls, and purple chairback seats slope down towards the hardwood floor.

James Madison's athletic department puts significant effort into promoting its volleyball program. The cheerleaders stand along the baseline, as does the school's mascot, Duke Dog. The PA announcer encourages fans to get loud and support the Dukes, and they answer his call. The Convocation Center is a sea of purple on gameday, with a great atmosphere to keep the fans engaged.

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 along Route 33, including a Doubletree, a Clarion, and a Candlewood Suites.


Fans 4

The renovated Convo seats only about 1,100 fans, and it is mostly full for a typical home game. "Start Wearing Purple" is a theme song of JMU athletics, and the fans take it to heart, coming decked out in the school color. They are loud and boisterous despite the large amount of open space on each sideline which reduces the crowd noise. Every time the Dukes have a set point, the crowd rises to its feet and cheers as loud as possible to urge the team to finish the task at hand.

Access 3

The campus of James Madison University is located just off Interstate 81. Several exits 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 works better in most cases. However, it is not a huge enough difference to worry about it too much.

Once you get on campus, parking is available in spacious lots next to the arena that were designed when the Convo had a much larger capacity. While parking was a problem when the arena was drawing 6,000+ fans for basketball, fans should have no problem parking close by for a volleyball game.

There is one men's restroom and one women's restroom at The Convo, plus a single-person gender-neutral/family one. They are of a sufficient size for the crowd.

However, there are a couple of issues here that bring this score down somewhat. A clear bag policy is in effect at JMU volleyball games, which seems unnecessary given the size of the crowd. Additionally, to get to the seats on one side of the floor, fans have to walk down to floor level and then back up. Most fans choose to sit on the other sideline for this reason.

Return on Investment 5

There is no cost for admission to JMU volleyball games, and concessions are affordable as well. This makes a game at the Convo an excellent value. Keep in mind there may be an admission charge for Sun Belt Conference or NCAA postseason events.


Extras 2

One bonus star here for the murals and other displays honoring JMU athletics. There are free roster cards and other items available at a marketing table by the entrance.

Final Thoughts

When the JMU Convocation Center closed in 2020, it seemed like it was gone for good. Basketball had moved to its shiny new arena, and there was nobody left to play there. However, JMU has not just renovated but rejuvenated the Convo, and volleyball has made it its new home. Dukes fans have embraced the return, and instead of playing in an aging and cramped gym, the volleyball program has a home befitting of its excellence.

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