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  • Jared Goodman

John Paul Jones Arena – Virginia Cavaliers

Photos by Jared Goodman, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

John Paul Jones Arena 295 Massie Rd Charlottesville, VA 22903

Year Opened: 2006

Capacity: 14,593


Champions of Design

The University of Virginia, established in 1819, has a long and storied history on the basketball court. Since the sport was introduced at the school in 1905, the Cavaliers have made 23 NCAA tournament appearances, claimed 3 ACC Championships, and even won their first-ever National Championship in 2019.

During their tenure as one of the most legendary programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Virginia has utilized several venues as their home courts. For 42 seasons, the Cavs were holed up in the 2,500-seat Memorial Gymnasium. A much larger University Hall debuted in 1965, increasing capacity for home games to almost 8,500. But the team outgrew this concrete coliseum too, ultimately landing at the sparkling new John Paul Jones Arena in 2006. The venue, the largest ACC arena located outside a metropolitan area, is able to hold almost twice as many fans as its predecessor – and it often has in recent seasons.

Food & Beverage 4

The dining options available at JPJ are numerous and reflect a great variety of tastes, meaning there’s something for everyone.

For a main course, try any of the following: taco trios ($9), cheesesteaks ($7), salads ($7), burrito bowls ($9), chicken tenders/wings ($9/$8), footlong corn dogs ($6), Bojangles’ chicken boxes ($9), hamburgers ($7), Papa John’s pizzas ($8), or hot dogs ($4).

Snacks and sweets include: Route 11 potato chips ($3), popcorn ($5), pretzels ($5), and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (2 scoops for $6, waffle cone for $7). A few other delectables such as funnel cakes, cotton candy, Dippin’ Dots and kettle corn round out the menu.

Wash it all down with a Pepsi-brand soda ($5) or bottled water ($3).

Atmosphere 5

This isn’t a big arena, by any means, but as any college basketball fan will tell you, bigger does not mean better. Capacity sits a little under 15,000, but you could easily mistake it for more than 20,000 when the fans get up. Everyone is extremely passionate and loud. JPJ Arena may be one of the most vertical venues I’ve ever been to. Bring your walking stick, because it’s a steep climb up to the second level. This only means fans at that level have a better view of the game. You will never go uninformed at a Virginia game. There are screens everywhere you turn, with live stats for different players, as well as team stats and trends. Accompanying the screens are the numerous banners from the long history of success.

Neighborhood 5

If you plug “college town” into a search engine, photos of Charlottesville will fill your screen. The historic city owes almost everything it is today to the incredible University of Virginia. Founded in 1819 by former President Thomas Jefferson, UVA set the bar high in architecture and academics for institutions that followed. Today, the university continues to act as the pulse of Charlottesville – the two are inseparable.

Hotspots in the town, for both students and locals alike, include The Corner and the Downtown Mall. The former abuts the university itself and is chock-full of college bars and eateries. The latter, meanwhile, is home to scores of restaurants and shops. Considered to be one of the largest pedestrian malls in the nation, it’s worth paying a visit to this popular district.

Just to the south of the downtown area lies the former residence of founding father Thomas Jefferson. Monticello, as he called it, attracts thousands of visitors each year and is a must-see when visiting the Charlottesville region.

On the more natural side of things, go for a scenic ride down either Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway, which meet just twenty miles west of C-ville at the entrance to Shenandoah National Park. The trip is especially worth it in early autumn, when the trees that line the highway begin to turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red.

Fans 4

JPJ has to be one of the loudest venues in the ACC, due to its compact and vertical design. Fans who pack the house each and every game day are both very involved and incredibly loud, the perfect recipe for an electric atmosphere. They rally behind head coach Tony Bennett and his legendary defense, the intensity culminating in a thunderous roar as the seconds tick down and the Cavs force a shot-clock violation.

The Hoo Crew student section seems to lead the charge, singing and chanting the songs of school throughout the game. This rowdy group is really the spark that lights the fire underneath the seats of every UVA crowd. And after clinching the National Championship in 2019, they’re fired up now more than ever.

Access 3

Charlottesville is nestled in piedmont Virginia off Interstate 64, just east of the Shenandoah Valley and about an hour west of the state capital of Richmond. Unfortunately, Hoo-Ville is not all that easy to get to, as it’s pretty isolated from any major cities. The closest, Washington, D.C., is about 2 hours away.

Once in the general vicinity of John Paul Jones Arena, expect some congestion. It’s recommended to arrive about an hour before game time in order to allow for any traffic you may incur. As far as parking is concerned, you have a few options to choose from. Expect to pay around $10 or so to park in one of the signed lots near the arena. Generally, a pre-paid parking pass is needed to use these spaces anyway, so be sure to do your research in advance. Free parking is available at The Park, the Darden School of Business and the Law School; all are about a 15-20-minute walk from JPJ. However, one of your best bets for secure parking is probably the Central Grounds Garage. While hourly rates still apply, and it’s a 15-minute walk down the street to the arena, the structure is both safe and very large.

Return on Investment 3

The prices of your tickets will vary greatly, depending on who the Cavaliers are playing. Against some non-conference opponents, or weak ACC teams, seats are going for just a few bucks a pop. But when big names such as Duke or UNC are headed to JPJ, expect to pay top dollar to get in the building.

Parking can be free if you’re willing to put in a little effort and don’t mind a short walk. Otherwise, expect to pay between $10-$20. Lastly, anticipate spending at least $20 per person on concessions inside JPJ.

All told, a family of four can cheer on the Hoos for as little as $100 (non-conference, free parking) or as much as $300 (popular conference opponent, premium parking.)

Extras 3

The arena is the proud home of loads of trophies and titles that UVA has gained throughout its history. These cases and plaques line the concourses of JPJ, showcasing the achievements of both the men’s and women’s programs.

Much to the chagrin of UVA fans, the Cavaliers will forever be known as the first team to lose to a #16-seed in the NCAA Tournament. In 2018, they became the answer to a trivia question when they were upset in the Round of 64 by the UMBC Retrievers. The very next season, however, Virginia exacted their revenge in the Tournament and claimed their first-ever National Championship. Today, the center-court floor from that historic 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis is on display at John Paul Jones Arena, a constant reminder to fans of their ultimate comeback success.

Finally, the on-campus architecture is just so incredible that it’s deserving of another mention. You simply won’t find another university like it anywhere in the nation.

Final Thoughts

At times, it may cost you an arm and a leg to pay John Paul Jones Arena a visit. However, it’s definitely worth it in every respect. The home court of the historic University of Virginia should be heralded as one of the best venues in the ACC, if not all of college basketball. Put this place on your bucket list, just below Allen Fieldhouse, The Palestra, and Cameron Indoor.

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