After being largely unused for nearly seven months due to ongoing renovations, the Smith Center reopened its doors this weekend, hosting a pair of volleyball games and offering alumni a chance to tour the new facilities for the first time.
Friday’s volleyball victory was the arena’s first official athletic competition since the men’s basketball team’s final home game March 7. The volleyball contest offered many students their first glimpse at the new court and an opportunity to sit in the new, backed seating that has replaced the bleachers along the arena’s north side.
“It has a much more professional feel,” junior Scott Trocchia said. “It looks fresher.”
An announced crowd of 551 came to see Friday’s game – the fifth largest in GW volleyball history – and many were abuzz with talk of the familiar building’s new look.
“You could see it on the faces of the student-athletes, on the faces of the alumni athletes and on the faces of the parents and administrators,” Assistant Director of Athletics for Facilities Jason Wilson said. “It’s really a spectacular night.”
While the court, lighting and seats are all new, many of the renovations took place on the building’s interior, such as the revamped workout areas, locker rooms, swimming pool, sports medicine room and academic facilities.
Women’s basketball head coach Mike Bozeman and men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs each spoke to the alumni at Saturday’s tour event. Bozeman praised the new amenities as “top-notch,” while Hobbs commended University President Steven Knapp’s dedication to the project and cited the new academic center as one of the renovation’s highlights.
“It’s going to give us an opportunity so we can compete with the rest of the league,” Hobbs said.
Yet it is more than just the basketball programs that will reap the benefits of a renovated Smith Center. Most of the renovations will be of use to all GW sports teams, many of whom will have a locker room of their own for the first time.
“It really feels like it’s more than just basketball, like they’re really embracing the whole athletic community,” Lauren Bernstein, a 2004 alumna and former GW gymnast, said. “It reminds me of when we used to compete at Florida or Georgia.”
After the renovations, the Smith Center’s lower level now looks almost entirely different, with the majority of rooms repurposed.
“When it was done, I was completely lost,” Devin McCalla, a 2002 gymnastics alumnus who now works as the athletic department’s director of promotions, said. “It was amazing to me just to see how they were able to use the space in a different way.”
Bernstein said the renovated building gave her a boost of pride toward her alma mater.
“Everything feels a lot bigger, like GW is really stepping up,” Bernstein added. “It makes me proud to be an athletic alumni.”