Yogin Kothari: An arena worth the investment

The end of September is just days away and we’ve all pretty much gotten back into school mode. Classes are boring, Gelman is overcrowded and every professor seems to think that his or her class is the only class we take (and care about).

But this year is different because of the phase of renovations wrapping up inside the Smith Center.

For those of you that have been living under a rock for the past six months or so, the Smith and Kogod families donated an astounding $10 million to renovate and expand the Smith Center on the condition that the University would raise another $15 million to assist. GW has also committed another $18 million (to be funded through debt) for the project, which is slated to finish by 2012.

With a total of $43 million to spend, is it appropriate for the University to invest so much money into an athletics program that isn’t the nucleus of the school?

Simply put, yes. This project helps point GW Athletics toward a brighter future.

To begin, it’s going to make new recruits want to come to GW. Before, when juxtaposed against other top-tier Division I schools, the Smith Center facilities did not compare. But, according to women’s basketball coach Mike Bozeman, the new facilities help level the playing field in recruiting efforts by giving the players something to compare when choosing their school.

Moreover, the arena now has a look of professionalism that had been lacking over the years. Instead of having bleacher seats all around, individual seating is now available in all sections, giving fans a more comfortable experience. The new locker rooms have improved too, and the new training room accommodates more athletes.

But one of the most important things that this project illustrates is the University’s support of our athletic program. For the past two seasons, the men’s basketball team has failed to reach the Atlantic 10 Championships. Last season the women’s basketball team was bumped out of the first round in the WNIT tournament after enjoying repeated success over the years. Many students and fans showed their displeasure, and the administration is helping out a program that needs it.

By investing in the Smith Center, the University has created a sincere partnership with the athletic department, letting it know the support is there. This commitment can easily motivate both players and coaches to work harder and send a message to everyone by improving their performance on the court.

All in all, the investment made by the University was a critical one that couldn’t have come at a better time. So, while we grumble about classes, professors and pretty much every other aspect of our education, it’s time to look forward to the new and exciting possibilities for our teams in the revamped Smith Center.

The writer is a sophomore majoring in international affairs.

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