First community arena
Opened on December 5, 1984, the Sam M. Vadalabene Center lends itself to SIUE students, faculty, staff, and alumni for educational, health, recreation, and wellness purposes. The facility is home to SIUE men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling, and has a capacity of just over 4,000. It also serves as an indoor training facility for baseball and track and field.
Following launch exercises in the spring of 2008, the facility underwent a $6 million renovation, nearly tripling the number of chair-backed seats and adding new locker rooms, classrooms, and offices. A new play floor was also installed. The facility was officially “repurposed” on February 7, 2009.
The largest crowd at Vadalabene Center after the renovation was reached on January 21, 2012, when 4,157 people were in attendance to watch SIUE Murray State University host men’s basketball, a nationally televised game on ESPNU.
In 2010, new locker rooms were opened for men’s basketball, women’s basketball, wrestling and volleyball.
A $5.4 million addition to the building, the Charles and Mary Lukas Athletic Annex, opened in October 2012. The intercollegiate athletics department is located on the ground floor of the Lukas Annex.
In August 2019, a 10-year, $2.3 million deal was announced to name the gaming arena First Community Arena at the Vadalabene Center.
The facility also houses the Athletics Academic Support Center and the Dr. Venessa Brown Academic Mentoring Center. SIUE’s investment in student-athlete academic resources has helped Cougar Athletics achieve a department-wide cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher in each of the past 30 semesters.
Over the years, Vadalabene Center has hosted many other events, including the Illinois High School Association’s Class AA basketball chapters, the Prairie State Games, and the State Games of America. It is also the site of the end-of-studies SIUE exercises.
The “VC” is named after the late Illinois State Senator Sam Vadalabene, who long championed the construction of the facility. Senator Sam, as he was known, once said of the institution’s name, “It is the greatest tribute that can be paid to an individual.
Offering excellent educational programs, enthusiastic faculty and being an essential and functional part of the SIUE campus, the Vadalabene Center is another example of the University’s commitment to its students and the community.