University receives largest donation in history for Smith Center

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Thursday, Feb. 14, 1:58 p.m.

One of GW’s biggest benefactors will give the largest single donation in University history to renovate the campus’s main athletic building.

The Charles E. Smith Family, Robert H. Smith Family and Robert and Arlene Kogod donated $10 million to completely renovate Smith Center, the 32-year-old building which is the nucleus for the University’s 22-team athletic program.

The University is seeking an additional $15 million for the plan, which will renovate everything from the basketball floor to locker rooms and training facilities. Plans also call for a academic center for student-athletes. The construction – which will likely take three years – will begin as soon as GW receives approval from the District, Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said. Construction is not expected to interrupt the University’s teams.

The much-maligned building has been a longtime punching bag of athletic fans and boosters. Now, Kvancz said, the athletic department can make changes that would launch the program onto a new level of recruiting and success.

“For the first time we’ve got some seed money and that’s because Mr. Smith was so gracious to give us the money,” Kvancz said in an interview Thursday morning. “Now it’s going to be a reality.”

Kvancz and head men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs praised University President Steven Knapp, who secured the donation from the Smith family.

“Obviously he’s a great president and he’s putting his statement on the University,” Hobbs said in a telephone interview. “He’s setting the foundation to create a legacy for the school.”

Members of the Smith family have met with architects to review plans, which could include a luxury skybox with a balcony overlooking the court, new seats in the top level of the student section, a new basketball floor and improved lighting. Portions of the pool area are also expected to be revamped.

From the exterior, the plans call for the 22nd Street fa?ade to be replaced with glass paneling. There will be a VIP entrance on F Street, which would take fans to a revitalized AD’s Club.

In separate interviews, both Kvancz and Hobbs said the renovation would have a huge impact on the athletic department. Hobbs said the building could help impress recruits and Kvancz said improved locker rooms and training facilities would improve the quality of the overall building.

“It’s a real testament to a lot of people who put together a great collective effort,” Hobbs said. “The ultimate congratulations and thanks goes to the family who donated the money and I think that it’s a huge statement made by Knapp and his commitment to the student-athletes and their excellence on and off the court.”

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