University trustees, students and community members ceremonially broke ground for GW’s health and wellness center Friday, kicking off a construction project scheduled for completion by November 2000.
The groundbreaking marked the end of the University’s uphill battle with area residents to build the new facility at the corner of 23rd and G streets.
“This new facility will make an enormous difference in the lives of students,” GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said. “It owes its existence to many people, and there is a great sense of anticipation for its opening.”
Trachtenberg called the ceremony “an opportunity for celebration” and said he looks forward to playing on the center’s new racquetball courts.
Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said the center will provide a great resource with amenities such as a three-lane running track, racquetball and squash courts, weight rooms, and a juice bar.
Student Association President Carrie Potter and GW volleyball player Renee Arnold said the center will provide more exercise options than the Smith Center. Although the new center will not house varsity sports, it will provide a place for students to play intramural sports or exercise on their own.
Senior Cooper Deerwester said she thought it was time GW provided separate buildings for recreational and intercollegiate activities, although she will not be around to enjoy the facility.
“It’s going to take care of the problem of too much going on in the Smith Center,” she said. “It’s good to separate varsity athletes from people who are just there for the exercise.”
“This new center is a terrific complement to the current facilities at GW,” Potter said.
John Zeglis, chairman of GW’s Board of Trustees, said the center was conceived 10 years ago, when Trachtenberg had the idea to create a modern sports facility for use by the campus community.
Zeglis thanked the center’s neighbors, including St. Mary’s Court and the episcopal church next door. Representatives of both buildings showed support for GW at the building’s approval hearing before the city’s zoning board. Some residents and Foggy Bottom’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission opposed the construction plans and tried to prevent zoning board approval, which the University eventually won in December 1997.
Trachtenberg also thanked D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans for his support of the center. He said it would have been difficult to gain approval for construction on the site without Evans’ support.
Some people at the gathering said the Foggy Bottom community may not have been sufficiently informed about the ceremony. But GW’s Director of Special Events Lynn Shipway said invitations, much like those GW sent to students, were delivered to local apartment buildings.
“They were probably put in the lobby,” Shipway said. “The decision to do (the groundbreaking) while the Board of Trustees was here was made very recently, so we had to fast-track it to get it done.”