Posted by William Nunnelley on 2006-04-21

Pete Hanna Arena is the name designated for Samford University's $32 million sport-fitness and special events center. The Samford Board of Trustees chose to honor Hanna, owner, president and chief executive officer of Hanna Steel Corporation of Fairfield. The announcement was made Thursday night (April 20) at a retirement dinner for Samford President Thomas E. Corts. The structure is a cornerstone of almost $100 million in campus improvements, planned and underway.

The centerpiece of Pete Hanna Arena will be a 5,000-seat arena for basketball and volleyball. In addition, the 132,000-square foot facility will house an athletics center with fitness and weight rooms, sports medicine and training areas, locker rooms and meeting rooms for teams, a student-athlete academic center, offices for coaches and administrators, a chapel and other facilities.

A key component of the structure will be a 12,000-square foot student fitness/wellness center for all students.

Samford broke ground on the structure in January and the anticipated completion date is the fall of 2007.

The arena will be used for Samford graduation programs and concerts. Seating capacity in this configuration will be 6,000, with the addition of 1,000 seats on the floor. Of the 5,000 permanent seats, 3,000 will be chair-back seats and 2,000 bleacher-back seats.

"Pete Hanna is one of the outstanding unheralded citizens of this community," said Dr. Corts. "He has a great heart. This man has done more quiet, unknown charitable kindnesses than any man I know. That makes it all the more fitting that Samford honor him in this way. He has built a business on Christian principles and on concern for his employees-all the while helping others."

Pete Hanna played football for Samford during the 1950s. He was a center and halfback on offense and linebacker on defense. He scored one of the first touchdowns on what would become Seibert Field during the 1958 season, before the stadium was complete. During that time, the team practiced on the old Samford campus in East Lake, but played games at the new Homewood site.

Entering the family business started by his father, Gen. Walter J. "Crack" Hanna, he bought his first stock in the company in 1962 and eventually bought the company itself in 1984. Today, the highly successful company consists of a steel tubing division, a painted steel product division and Hanna Truck Line, which delivers the products.

Samford Vice President for University Relations Michael Morgan said, "Mr. Hanna's commitment to Samford has given an explosive burst of energy to fundraising for our campaign."

Hanna said, "I never expected to see my name on a University building. The only person more surprised might be my English teacher, Professor (Lizette) Van Gelder. She would be amazed that one of the 'ruffians' she tried to teach had been recognized in this way."

He added, "I have been blessed beyond my fondest dreams and I am pleased that as a steward of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have a part in Samford's future. This is a most unusual university, and we want it to continue to be outstanding as an academic university and a Christian university."

"The multipurpose center will be a crown jewel of the campus," said Dr. Corts. "It satisfies our need for spectator sports as well as participation. Every student who passes through Samford will know this building. It should give us as fine a facility as any university in the Ohio Valley Conference and allow a student the joy of cheering intercollegiate teams to victory-but also meeting his or her personal goals in the weight room and on fitness equipment."

"Being able to hold commencement on campus will be especially meaningful to families and friends of Samford students," Corts added.

The new center is located west of Seibert Hall and Bashinsky Fieldhouse and north of Joe Lee Griffin Baseball Stadium. It ties together the major recreation facilities into a west campus zone.

"This new center will take us from 'worst to first' among arenas of this size in the Ohio Valley Conference and the nation," said Samford Athletics Director Bob Roller. "It's designed to keep the intimacy that has surrounded Samford athletics, but will have all the modern amenities that we have lacked for many years."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.