June 13-26, 2003
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Jones names arena for ‘great’ father
Ground broken for new arena May 30
John Paul Jones, middle left, and his son Paul Tudor Jones II show off their new jerseys, presented at the May 30 groundbreaking ceremony. Applauding are athletics director Craig Littlepage, left, and U.Va. President John T. Casteen III, far right.
John Paul Jones, middle left, and his son Paul Tudor Jones II show off their new jerseys, presented at the May 30 groundbreaking ceremony. Applauding are athletics director Craig Littlepage, left, and U.Va. President John T. Casteen III, far right.

Staff Report

For Paul Tudor Jones II, the decision to name the University of Virginia’s arena in honor of his father, John Paul Jones, was a simple act of love.

“It’s payback time for his being a great father,” said Jones, 48, a 1976 graduate of the University who has committed $35 million to the building project. He also believes that the naming is a fitting tribute for a man whose life has been dedicated primarily to four things: his faith, his family, the University of Virginia and basketball.

Jones senior, who goes by Jack, is a 1948 graduate of the University’s School of Law and a devoted student of Thomas Jefferson who refers to Jefferson as “one of the most interesting icons who ever lived.” When young Paul was considering colleges, his father told him he could “go anywhere as long as it was in Albemarle County, Virginia.”

While his son predicted his father would be “on the moon” when he heard news of the naming, John Paul Jones, 83, likened it more to “walking on air.” On May 30, at a meeting of the University’s Board of Visitors, it became official. The 15,000-seat special-events center now under construction will be called the John Paul Jones Arena.

At the official groundbreaking — held on a surprisingly dry mound of earth in a parking lot across from U-Hall, roughly where midcourt of the new arena will be located — Paul Tudor Jones again paid tribute to his father, and to his father’s namesake, the famed Revolutionary War admiral known as the father of the American navy. That John Paul Jones (though no relation) was a friend of Thomas Jefferson’s, he said. The naming thus “pays homage to two great Americans connected to the University of Virginia.” His voice breaking, he concluded, “With that, Daddy, I love you.”

After being presented with framed, customized Virginia basketball jerseys, the two Joneses joined several other University officials — including head men’s basketball coach Pete Gillen and head women’s basketball coach Debbie Ryan — in turning the first shovelfuls of dirt.

The groundbreaking finally put to rest more than two decades of talk about replacing venerable U-Hall, which opened in 1965. The first real planning for a replacement began in 1982, said athletics director Craig Littlepage. “The time and effort spent getting to this point is well worth the wait,” he said.

"University Hall has been a wonderful facility for 40 years," University President John T. Casteen III said. “But times have changed, and building designs have changed.”

Jack Jones, a lifelong resident of Memphis, has been a stalwart U.Va. alumnus, serving three years as president of his alumni chapter. He continues to participate in alumni functions, but says he gets the most pleasure from meeting with prospective U.Va. students and helping them through the admission process.

It was clear that Jones was grateful for the honor, but not quite sure what to make of the fact that one day he’ll get to see his name emblazoned across the building’s entrance while he’s in his favorite chair watching a U.Va. game on TV. Rather than dwell on the honor, Jones prefers to talk about the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren, and, of course, basketball.

He has front-row seats for the Memphis Grizzlies games, rarely misses a University of Memphis home game and tunes in to the Cavaliers whenever he can.
Basketball is a passion he shares with son Paul, who coaches his daughters’ youth basketball team. Several years ago, Jones the younger was the first alumnus to strongly voice his concern that the University needed to replace the aging University Hall.

He became the driving force behind plans for a new arena, first providing funds for an initial design phase. In November 2001, he made a 10-year, $20 million pledge that put the project on a fast track. This spring, he pledged $15 million more, pushing the $129.8 million project past the halfway mark needed to begin construction.

Since graduating in 1976 with a degree in economics, Jones, the founder of a money management group in Greenwich, Conn., has continued to lend his support to the University that he said helped him “develop a sense of personal honor.”

Until 2001, Jones’ history of giving to the University had been on the academic side. His most recent gift was a $10 million challenge grant to help fund the recently completed 45,000-square-foot research addition to environmental sciences’ Clark Hall. With an earlier gift, he endowed a research professorship shared by the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration and the McIntire School of Commerce.

“For many years, Paul Tudor Jones has helped to move the University’s academic division forward, and now he is doing the same for athletics,” Casteen said.

Paul Jones, chairman of the volunteer committee that guided the arena project, set the tone for this fund-raising effort, Casteen said. “His dedication reaches all corners of the University. From his early backing of the Jefferson Scholars program to his support in business, finance and environmental sciences, Paul always has been a leader,” Casteen said.

The arena and its new name will become part of the Jones family legacy, and perhaps its family lore. Both father and son admire the Revolutionary War Jones’ fortitude as much as his famous saying: “I have not yet begun to fight.” They believe it suits a sports arena.

Jack Jones talks about the impact of the new arena, clearly beginning to warm to the idea that the building will indeed carry his name. “With the heroics of basketball, this arena will enhance the University’s academic purposes while developing students with strong values of leadership, sportsmanship, citizenship, physical fitness, teamwork, and Mr. Jefferson’s margin of excellence,” he said. “The student body will get to enjoy the drama and satisfaction of hoops as it should be played.”


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