Bender Arena

Bender Arena

The home of American University athletics, Bender Arena officially opened its doors on Jan. 23, 1988, when AU's women's basketball team hosted James Madison University. The new arena was a welcome sight for all associated with the University, as the program previously played all its home contests in the old Cassell Center across campus.

The funds for Bender Arena were donated by alumni benefactors Howard and Sondra Bender and the building was named in honor of Jack I. Bender, Howard's father. 

The arena holds 3,084 fans for basketball, and volleyball and 6,000 for concerts. In the spring of 1988, the university held its commencement in the new facility, marking the first time in decades that the ceremonies were held on campus. 

On January 15, 2003, American University dedicated the competition floor to the memory of Stafford H. "Pop" Cassell. 

Located in one of the nation's top sports and entertainment cities, Bender Arena has hosted a wide variety of events throughout the years. In 2010, Sir Elton John and tennis legend brought a World Team Tennis fundraiser to Bender. The event, which included then-WTT stars Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova, drew more than 3,000 and raised about $500,000 for local charities fighting AIDS. 

Besides commencement and varsity basketball, varsity wrestling, and volleyball contests, Bender has hosted concerts from well-known groups and singers such as Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Cee Lo Green and Chance the Rapper. The facility has hosted speakers like Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Tipper Gore, Bill Nye, Malala Yousafzai and former President Bill Clinton. 

Camps, special events and high school basketball tournaments like the Gonzaga Holiday Classic, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Championship and the CDRF Real Estate Games have called Bender Arena home.

In 2015, the attendance record for a volleyball game in D.C. was broken when hosted the nationally ranked #4 Florida Gators.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama graced Bender Arena to watch a women’s hoops game against Princeton in 2014.

Bender Arena is the flagship facility of the American University Sports Center, which also includes a fitness center, the Reeves Aquatic Center, a mini-mall, the campus store, and a 470-car, seven-level parking garage. The Sports Center lies virtually at the geographic center of the campus.

The 300,000 square-foot building connects to Mary Graydon Center to create an enormous hub of student activity. AU students are able to go to class, have dinner, attend a game or concert and stop by the Bridge or The Eagles Nest convenience store for refreshments without ever leaving the confines of the building. In addition, the facility houses the athletics department and health and fitness offices. 

Bender Arena has hosted Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Wrestling and Women’s Volleyball Tournaments since it opened its door in 1988. Bender has played host to 18 conference Tournaments (One Coastal Athletic Association Women’s Basketball, Two CAA Women’s Volleyball, and 16 Patriot League Women’s Volleyball). 

ABOUT JACK I. BENDER- Bender is the co-founder of the Blake Construction company, his son and grandson have been chairmen of the company in years following. Blake Construction was responsible for the construction of the Jack & Dorothy Bender Library and other prominent buildings such as the United States Holocaust Museum, the FBI Building, and the Bethesda Naval Hospital. All the construction was overseen by his son, Howard Bender. 

ABOUT STAFFORD H. “POP” CASSELL - Stafford H. “Pop” Cassell coached AU basketball for 11 years and compiled a record of 155-94 from 1937-1942 and from 1946-1952. His teams had six consecutive winning seasons. Cassell was a longtime Athletic Director at American and also coached the football team. However, while his love may have been AU athletics, his biggest contribution to American came later when he became a special assistant to the President of the University, Hurst Anderson.

During his time working for the President, the University went through the largest building phase of any time in its history. One project that did not get finished before Cassell passed away was a new field house for the athletic program. However, on Jan. 15, 2003, the basketball floor in Bender Arena was renamed in honor of him. His widow and family were on hand to celebrate the unveiling of the Stafford H. “Pop” Cassell basketball floor.

Bender Records since 1990

Record at Bender Arena

Win Percentage at Bender Arena

Longest Win Streak

Men’s Basketball



12 Games (2008-2009)

Women’s Basketball



23 Games (2017-2019)

Women’s Volleyball



25 Games (2006-2007)

(Missing 2003 season)



3 Meets (2016-2017)


Patriot League Tournament Games

PL Tournament Host

PL Tournament Championship Game Host

AU Championship wins at Bender Arena

Men’s Basketball

15 games

Three Games

Two Games (2007 and 2008)

Women’s Basketball

15 games

Two Games

Two Games (2015 and 2018)

Women’s Volleyball

47 games

16 Games

15 wins (2001-2008, 2010, 2011, 2013-2017)

Updated July 2019