The social gathering space for Elon fans is made possible through generous gifts from Glen Raven Inc. and Elon Trustee Allen E. Gant Jr. and his wife, Denise. The club's official opening is for the Elon men's basketball game against the University of North Carolina on Friday, Nov. 9.
The Sunbrella Club in the new Schar Center will officially open Friday, Nov. 9, when the Elon University men’s basketball team takes the floor against the University of North Carolina, offering a popular social gathering space for Elon fans while putting amenities in the university’s latest athletics venue on par with any other in intercollegiate athletics.
The Sunbrella Club was made possible through generous gifts from Glen Raven Inc., a global provider of performance fabrics based in Alamance County, North Carolina, and Elon University Trustee Allen E. Gant Jr., the chairman of Glen Raven, and his wife, Denise. Sunbrella, manufactured and marketed by Glen Raven, is an extraordinary and fashionable indoor and outdoor fabric used to create distinctive marine, shade, outdoor upholstery and indoor upholstery for home or commercial use.
Located on the second level of the 5,100-seat Schar Center, the Sunbrella Club is an elevated fan experience including 125 premium seats, a buffet, bar, dining tables and plush gathering areas near video monitors. Season tickets to the Sunbrella Club sold out in less than an hour, says Deputy Director of Athletics Mike Ward. Club level gathering spaces are becoming popular additions to athletics venues nationwide and a first for Elon.
“Gone are the days when you get in your seat, watch the games and go home. Now it’s interacting with those around you and sharing the event,” Ward says. “With the Sunbrella Club, we created the opportunity for these shared experiences.”
This kind of innovation and creative planning are factors that tie Elon University to Glen Raven. “As far as we’re concerned innovation is the last frontier we have,” Gant says. “Anyone can put the facilities in place but unless they have the environment and culture for innovation they have no chance to win. We turn our people loose to innovate in an unshackled way. Elon is the pre-eminent place in higher education where creative and engaged learning are in place.”
The Sunbrella Club will make an important difference for Elon University athletics. “The Schar Center is a remarkable facility that is only enhanced by the addition of this beautiful club level experience. The Sunbrella Club will be a wonderful gathering place for Elon fans for years to come,” Elon President Connie Ledoux Book says. “We thank Glen Raven and the Gant family for this generous and game-changing gift.”
Stephanie Cizinsky, marketing manager for Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, the makers of Sunbrella, cites the company’s commitment to education and its special, mutual relationship with Elon as important factors in making the gift. “Our support of Elon is designed to enhance the university’s outreach to its audiences in Alamance and beyond, including through career engagement and development and community connections,” she says.
The design and function of athletics venues have evolved during the past two decades to meet the changing interests of fans. Spaces such as the Sunbrella Club are on the cutting edge of the most recent evolution for those attending athletics events, Ward says. Club areas generate an atmosphere of excitement and engagement. A goal in building the Schar Center was capitalizing on this area of focus for fans who want an experience beyond the games.
“I think when you look at modern athletics’ venue design, there is a premium on social space,” Ward says.” Part of the design process behind the Sunbrella Club is to enjoy each other at an athletic experience. It fits into the overall design of the Schar Center to create more social space. People want to share more experiences at games. That’s why these spaces are popular.”
The Schar Center’s design holds particular interest for Sunbrella because it fits with its corporate ideal. “The Schar Center is a perfect example of a space that is built with dedication in displaying performance excellence,” Cizinsky says. “This is synonymous with Sunbrella’s foundation. Rooted in textile performance, our brand is driven by design inspiration and innovation. Thinking critically about how textiles enhance overall design continues to push our brand and innovation forward, and finding a home for Sunbrella in the Schar Center rounds out the complete story for us.”
Ward points to the spacious concourse as a creative design element of the Schar Center that will ultimately elevate the fan experience for all ticket holders. Elon athletics officials plan to introduce a student lounge on the concourse while also adding tables where guests can eat and socialize. The Gill Room is another concourse-level meeting spot. The Sunbrella Club is the centerpiece of those efforts and places Elon as a leader in contemporary athletics arena design and fan engagement. “A club level like Sunbrella is as fine a venue as you’ll see in intercollegiate athletics at any level,” Ward says. “My background is in the Southeastern Conference. The Sunbrella Club holds its own with any SEC arena or any Power Five conference arena.”
At the moment, the Sunbrella Club will only open for men’s basketball games. No Sunbrella Club tickets are available for the 2018-19 season. Club tickets will be sold annually for the limited number of available seats and all Elon fans may apply. “We work through Phoenix Club priorities when we have more requests than seats available. Then we default to the giving history to Elon University,” Ward says.
Allen Gant and Glen Raven have a long history of support for Elon. Gant was named to the university Board of Trustees in 1997 and served as board chairman in 2007. In 2010 he was honored by Elon with the Frank S. Holt, Jr. Business Leadership Award, the university’s highest honor for business leadership and later that year received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Elon. He has been a leader in Elon fundraising efforts through the years and has generously given to several Elon initiatives, including the Numen Lumen Pavilion, the Center for Organizational Analytics, Elon Academy, undergraduate research in the sciences, law school scholarships, athletics and the physician’s assistant program.
“All in intercollegiate athletics, from the coaches to the student-athletes, are appreciative of having great local partners like the Gant family and Glen Raven to help make this happen,” Ward says.