Georgia Southern held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for the 95,000-square-foot Jack and Ruth Ann Hill Convocation Center.
The center is named in honor of the late Senator Jack Hill and his wife of 46 years, Ruth Ann Hill. Both are Georgia Southern graduates.
The Jack and Ruth Ann Hill Convocation Center, serving as the signature building on Georgia Southern’s south campus in Statesboro, will be the largest event venue space between Savannah and Macon.
It will be built on the southwest side of the intersection of Lanier Drive and Veterans Memorial Parkway – the Highway 301 bypass.
Speakers at Thursday’s groundbreaking included university President Dr. Kyle Marrero, University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue and Lance Hill, who represented the Hill family.
Some site work is underway, but construction will not begin in earnest until this fall with a construction completion target of Spring 2024.
Total construction cost is estimated at just more than $50 million, while the total project budget is set at $64.46 million. Funding for the project comes from a combination of state and privately raised funds.
For convocations, graduation ceremonies and other events that use the floor, the center occupancy tops out at almost 5,900. For athletic events and basketball games, the center will seat approximately 5,500 spectators.
According to a Georgia Southern release, the center will be a multi-story complex that fills two vital University needs:
1.) Approximately 7,000 square feet of additional instructional space for the Waters College of Health Professions, specifically for the sports and exercise psychology and sports management programs.
2.) A multipurpose arena that can be utilized for large-scale events such as commencement ceremonies, speakers, concerts, job fairs and other university and community assemblies. The arena will be the new home court for Georgia Southern Eagles NCAA basketball games.
The academic space expansion is needed to keep up with enrollment in the Waters College of Health Professions, which has gone from 5,085 in 2018 to 5,656 in 2021, and to support Georgia Southern’s commitment to expand its nursing cohort by 30% over the next five years.
The building is named for Jack Hill, who graduated from Georgia Southern in 1966. He was the longest-serving Georgia senator when he died in April 2020. He was a senator for 30 years, serving as chairman of several crucial committees, including Appropriations, which has broad jurisdiction over legislation involving budgeting and spending state and federal funds.
With Hill’s support, Georgia Southern reached new heights as an institution serving the southeast region and the state of Georgia. Hill was instrumental in helping the university expand its programs and build several new state-of-the-art facilities, including the Engineering and Research Building, which opened for classes in January 2021.
His wife of 48 years, Ruth Ann, focused her life on public education and retired as principal of Reidsville Elementary School. She was a triple Eagle, earning degrees from Georgia Southern in 1973, 1990 and 1991.