Southern Miss Payne Center turns 20

Zachary Odom/Printz
Zachary Odom/Printz

The Department of Recreational Sports will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Payne Center opening Saturday at 2 p.m.

The celebration will begin with a gathering on the front steps of the Payne Center and will move into the four-gym complex inside the building.

This momentous event will reflect on the Payne Center’s legacy and will unveil a “Recreational Sports Legacy” board recognizing former rec sports professionals that have impacted the university and Hattiesburg community.

“The Payne Center has been home to me as a professional and while I was an undergraduate student here at the university,” said Cassie Varnado, director of the anniversary celebration. “It has truly grown over the years.”

Located beside Pride Field, the Payne Center was established from a student referendum passed in 1984 placing a $15 fee per semester on student accounts to fund the facility’s construction. In 1990, the families of Jim and Larry Payne contributed $2 million to complete the building.

Over the years, the facility has received numerous updates and additions. The most recent addition was the racquetball court which was turned into a spinning studio.

Although viewed by many as a fitness and wellness facility, the Payne Center provides a support system for students. “I see it bringing students together, as a retreat from the ins and outs of class work and homework,” Varnado said. “The facility has become and will remain a popular staple within the campus community.”

Due to their generous contribution, the Payne families will be honored with a special gift that will become a permanent display at the Payne Center.

For more information about this event, contact Cassie Varnado at [email protected].