University administrators said they will not begin any renovations on Smith Center until a donor has committed because, unlike housing construction, there is no guaranteed cash flow.
The 32-year-old building hosts GW’s athletic offices, training and competition space. It is in major need of renovation, said Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz. University officials said they are not overlooking the renovations and continue to look into ways the building can be improved.
In September, Kvancz told The Hatchet that there is an anonymous donor who wants to fund the 22nd Street building’s renovation.
“We’re not ignoring the Smith Center,” said Lou Katz, executive vice president and treasurer. “In fact, we’re looking at possibilities at what can be done in the Smith Center, what should be done in the Smith Center and how to fund that.”
In the past decade, GW has taken out millions of dollars in debt to fund housing construction – repaid by student housing fees. Because Smith Center renovations would not generate this immediate cash flow, a donor is necessary, Katz said.
Kvancz said he has been in discussions with the University about the renovations that need to be made.
“I would prefer to see larger locker rooms and more seating for people,” Kvancz said, “Clearly I’m for improvements, but it is what it is and (the athletic teams) will play.”
He added, “It would behoove us to make it better. It’s only a question of money.”
Kvancz continued by saying that the teams will play regardless of whether or not the renovations happen.
Steve “Herve” Hadley, creator of GWHoops.com, a GW basketball fan message board, said the small size of the basketball court is perfect for Foggy Bottom.
“The changes they make should be cosmetic,” said Hadley, who is also a GW alumnus. “I like that it’s small. I like that everything is on top of each other. I like how the students shout at me across the court to stand up.”
Andrew Wiseman, who runs a GW basketball blog called “Colonial Hoops,” has a more grandiose vision for Smith Center. He called the current structure “a glorified high school gym.”
“I would love to see a new arena,” Wiseman said. “People say it’s always hard to schedule teams to play (at the Smith Center), but with an 8,000 to 10,000 seat arena – like the Patriot Center (at George Mason University) – that wouldn’t be the case.”
It is unlikely, administrators said, that the building will be replaced. Katz said changes to Smith Center would only cost tens of millions of dollars, not upwards of $75 million like the new dorm being constructed on F Street.
Katz said, “We’re not de-emphasizing our collegiate athletics. This is very important to our overall strategy.”