Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Willett Hall 201 High St Farmville, VA 23909
Year Opened: 1980 Capacity: 1,900
Willett Hall is located in Farmville, Virginia, on the campus of Longwood University, and is home to the Longwood Lancers’ men’s and women’s basketball teams. It opened in 1980, shortly after the Lancers made the Division III Final Four. That same year, they moved up to the Division II level, before making the jump to Division I in 2004 to join the Big South Conference.
Willett Hall served as host for the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine and underwent major renovations to prepare for that. However, it is set to close no later than 2022 and be replaced by the Joan Perry Brock Center.
Food & Beverage 2
There is one concession stand located in the lobby of Willett Hall, offering only the most basic options. The good news is that the prices are affordable. If you want a main dish, your only options are Chick-fil-A sandwiches ($4) and hot dogs ($3). Other options include pretzels ($3), candy ($3), and chips and popcorn for $2 each. Drinks include soda ($2, or $5 for a souvenir cup), Powerade ($3) and bottled water ($3). The soda is Coca-Cola products, and includes Mello Yello, which is not typically found at arenas.
For a small college, Longwood puts on a good show at their basketball games. There are only a few rows of reserved chairbacks on one sideline, with the other seats being bleachers. Willett Hall has two scoreboards, one behind each baseline. The one closest to the entrance has a video screen, while the one on the other side does not, but shows player stats.
The Lancers have a dance team and cheer squad that keep the crowd engaged and throw t-shirts into the seats after every three. Before the game, there are impressive player introductions involving music and flashing, colorful lights. The Lancers mascot is a horse named Elwood who looks similar to the horse in the Longwood logo.
Farmville is a quaint, small town, and while it’s in the middle of nowhere, there is still plenty to do here. Although there are typical chain places, your best bet is to check out the local color at places such as Walker’s Diner or Riverside Café, both of which are very close to the arena. In fact, everything in Farmville is very close to the arena, because it’s a very small town. Just head off campus and turn left on Main Street and just about everything will be right there.
Although Willett Hall is a small arena, seating under 2,000 fans, the Lancers rarely come close to filling it. Most games draw just over 1,000 fans. The nice thing about small arenas is that they’re usually quite full, and it is disappointing that Longwood can’t seem to pull it off here. That being said, the fans who do show up are engaged, cheering and even waving Longwood flags at times. They stay until the end, even if the game isn’t close, which can be a problem at some other places. Unfortunately, they do have a tendency to wait to show up until right as the game is tipping off, which can be distracting if you have to keep standing up to let people in right as the game is starting.
There are a few roads into Farmville, but regardless of how you get into town, you are going to have to drive quite a bit. Most likely you will end up taking either State Route 45 or U.S. Route 460, but if you’re coming from any sort of populated area, Farmville probably isn’t close to you. Lynchburg is the closest remotely large city, and it’s a full hour away. Richmond is about an hour and 15 minutes, while Washington, D.C. is about three hours.
Once you’re on campus, there is a parking lot next to the arena, but that is reserved for season ticket holders and those with handicap permits. Everyone else can park anywhere else on campus except in lots reserved for residential students, which are pretty far from the arena and would be bad places to park anyway.
The restrooms in the arena are located around the corner from the main lobby and up a small flight of steps. Although they are small, they are sufficient for the crowds typically.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets start at $7 for general admission seats in the bleachers, while reserved chairbacks are $12. However, the chairbacks are only sold the day of the game and are reserved for season ticketholders up until that point. Regardless, this is a good value, especially with the affordable concessions and free parking. You may have to spend a bit of gas money to get to Farmville given how far away it is from just about anything, but that will vary depending on where you live.
Free programs are available at a table in the lobby.
There are jerseys painted on the back wall honoring Lancers men’s and women’s basketball greats as well as a sign honoring former women’s basketball coach Shirley Duncan.
The Lancers have many intricate and entertaining contests during timeouts and at halftime, including a bizarre version of musical chairs with exercise balls instead of chairs where contestants had to dance while blindfolded while the music played then try to find the balls when it stopped.
Willett Hall may be located in the middle of nowhere, which is about what you’d expect from a town called Farmville, but if you’re in town and the Lancers are playing, it is definitely worth a visit. That being said, only the most passionate sports travelers would consider it worthwhile to drive several hours to check out this arena. There is a lot of potential here, and if the Lancers manage to fill the place up, it could be a spectacular atmosphere, but it seems a lot the effort to make that happen is going to be deferred until the new arena opens in a few years.