Georgetown University Planning New Athletic Training Center

As reported by The Hoya, Georgetown University is moving forward with a plan for a large new athletic training facility. The plans call for a 125,000 square foot building that will, according to the Hoya ” house practice courts, locker rooms, team meeting rooms and coaches’ offices for the men’s and women’s basketball programs. Locker rooms for men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse as well as weight training facilities and training room areas for all varsity athletes are also slated to be built.”

The building has actually been on the drawing board for quite a while. It was even included in Georgetown’s 2000 campus plan. It is included again in GU’s most recent proposed plan. The proposal calls for the building to be constructed where the tennis courts now stand:

GM has heard that GU intends to rebuild the tennis courts on top of the new building.

GU is coming before the Old Georgetown Board next month for approvals. Which means they’ll be stopping by the ANC a few days before. And it wouldn’t be a GU matter before the ANC if it didn’t somehow get wrapped up in the campus plan. But this time it’s actually not a stretch!

Neighbors opposed to the proposed campus plan argue that GU ought to build more dorms on campus. GU has repeatedly said it has no space to build dorms on campus. But they’re proposing to build a new 125,000 square foot building. So obviously there’s room. It’s just that they’d prefer to build an athletic center to improve sports recruitment. And since this has been on the drawing board for so long, they likely never seriously considered changing this project to address the neighbors. Which is fine, but it gives ammunition to those opposed to the plan to say that it’s not that GU can’t build new dorms on campus, they just don’t want to.

The best solution would obviously be to build the new facility as a mixed use building, with several floors of dorms above the athletics part. They could be dorms specifically for the athletes perhaps.

If the ANC does bring up this point, it’s nearly certain that GU will say that they absolutely need this facility and that building dorms just doesn’t work with this project. And frankly, the OGB process is not really the appropriate venue for this discussion (and maybe the ANC realizes this, and GM will be wrong that it’ll even come up). But this building has not been the focus of much discussion during the Zoning Commission hearings over the proposed campus plan, but GM wonders whether GU moving forward with it now might change that.


Filed under Town and Gown

15 responses to “Georgetown University Planning New Athletic Training Center

  1. Anonymous

    I recognize that there are important campus plan issues outstanding, and I will leave those for others to address. I have played some indoor and outdoor tennis at GU as a guest during the past few years. The outdoor courts are in poor shape, and the indoor courts are extremely noisy, because generally GU just blocks off with pads various parts of the large Yates facility which is also used for basketball, general exercise, etc. Assuming that GU should have competitive sports programs, it needs upgraded facilities. In basketball, for example, GU competes nationally with universities which prioritize sports and have dramatically better facilities, which likely puts GU at a substantial disadvantage in recruiting and training.

  2. Dizzy

    I mean, it’s obviously true that there’s not no space to build dorms on campus. They could have not built the business school or the science building. They could fill in the internal courtyard in the Southwest Quad. They could, with massive cost and disruption, remove the hill from the Village C Patio going up to Dahlgren Chapel and wedge a building in there. They could blow up the apartment-style Village A, Henle, and Alumni Square and replace them with Parris Island-style barracks that maximize human storage capacity.

    They could even, as one Georgetown resident so thoughtfully suggested, disinter all of the Jesuits from the cemetery and build a dorm there.

    The point is not that this would be impossible. The question is: is it reasonable, especially given that the University already houses a larger % of its students on campus than any other university in the District (save for Gallaudet, whose population has special needs) and than pretty much any comparable university around the country.

    I don’t really expect you or anyone else in the neighborhood to care much about Georgetown athletics – thought it would be nice – but I can assure you that this athletic facility is necessary just to keep the program’s head above water. The university’s athletic facilities are decrepit and absolutely embarrassing for a Division I high major program. My high school – at less than100 people per grade – had a better weight room (actually, the Hoyas don’t even have a weight room anymore, just a curtained off area in Yates), better sports medicine facilities and locker rooms (the football team gets dressed in McShain Lounge before games because they have to let the road team use theirs!), to say nothing of fields – the MSF is a quarter-built eyesore with a trailer for a press box, portapotties for restrooms, and a nice turf field that is fast wearing out after years of extremely heavy use, up to 16 hours per day; the field on top of Yates has been declared unfit for intercollegiate competition and has more divots than a freshly-cleared minefield; and North Kehoe has barely enough room for a small set of bleachers on one side only and nothing else.

    The Top Ten-ranked track and field teams have no track or field; the baseball team is exiled to a metro-inaccessible venue in Bethesda, the field hockey team is homeless and has had to play its home games at UMCP and American, the softball team plays at a Rec League park with a seating capacity of about 25, etc. etc.

    So yes, they do need every square inch of this facility to be dedicated to athletics, especially with the height and space restrictions limiting its square footage. They would need to build three of these things to even begin to approach the facilities of a comparable athletic program like Villanova (and we’re not even talking about a true on-campus arena like Nova’s 6,500-seat Pavilion).

    If your (that’s a general second-person you, not a Topher Matthews you) only priority is containing students within the confines of campus for as close to 100% of the time as possible, though, I’m sure all of this is of no interest or consequence.

  3. Topher

    Dizzy, as always you make a strong case on your employers behalf. And you’re right that some anonymous commenter once tastelessly suggested GU move the Jesuit cemetery. Then again, in 1984 the President of Georgetown said it was the official position of the school that the graves of hundreds of former Georgetown residents should be removed from Holy Rood cemetery so that GU could expand there. So maybe it’s only tasteless when it’s priests?

  4. RobRob

    Dizzy – I won’t comment on the specifics of your straw-man argument regarding the different outlandish locations you’ve mentioned because I’m not familiar enough with the campus to write coherently about them. (Really, has anyone seriously advocated or expected the university to build Marine barracks for students? Why not prison cell blocks?) However, by choosing to build an athletic facility, the university is clearly prioritizing its need for improvements to its sports programs over any efforts to house more of its students on-campus. The logical extension of this point is that the university views the problems with the current facilities and their impacts on the athletic programs as more important than the problems between the neighborhood residents and its off-campus students.

    I’ll leave it to others to argue whether this prioritization is reasonable. Seems to me that athletic facilities would be easier to build “off-campus” than residence halls.

  5. @RobRob

    RobRob, if I were you, I would leave it to others to decide the reasonableness of this proposal, as your comment shows a lack of understanding of Georgetown’s history and what it takes to run a world-class University.

    Re the history. As Dizzy mentioned, GU already houses a disproportionately high number of undergraduates on campus compared to other schools in DC and its peer institutions around the country. While no two schools are the same, it is unfair to characterize GU’s housing policy as anything but robust. In fact, the University is proposing to add more housing within the next few years (about 250 beds I believe) as anyone following the recent campus plan hearings can attest. That this project will be a top priority of the new plan shows GU’s deep commitment to adding to its already numerous on-campus offerings.

    This athletic facility is a hold-over project from the last campus plan. The reason why it is only being discussed now is (conference realignments aside) because GU has prioritized housing in the 2000 plan as well. The Southwest Quad added almost 800 beds on-campus (and before anyone disputes its effect, remember that any ensuing enrollment increases were significantly smaller than this bed increase). The SWQ was one of the first major projects of that plan. It is only now–almost a decade later–that GU is getting to other, lower priority projects from the 2000 plan. To say that building this project shows a disdain for the concerns of the neighbors ignores recent history, including all of the off-campus student life disciplinary “enhancements.”

    Re running a major University. As any college administrator will attest, higher education is quite competitive. In order to maintain its elite status, GU must make up for the areas it lacks (most of its competitors are decades ahead of it). This athletic facility has been promised for quite sometime (along with a general athletics upgrade, including completion of the MSF) and has been kicked down the road for other priorities, and lack of funding. Now, with the college athletic landscape in such disarray, such a world-class facility is needed to maintain GU’s competitive athletic program. Athletics are important to colleges because students (even the non-athletes) want to go to schools with strong programs. They unite the campus and increase school spirit. Having a top notch athletics department also increases fundraising dramatically (especially important for a school with a paltry endowment). It is much easier to raise money for an athletic facility than a dormitory (which is why dorms at GU remain unnamed, ie Village A, B, C).

    To sum up that last paragraph, a good basketball team brings in money, that funds all of the other sports. These sports, especially basketball, are a vital part of student life that the vast majority of colleges want to encourage as they help fundraising and student recruitment. Building this facility keeps GU sports strong.

    As to why it couldn’t be built off-campus, I believe Dizzy already pointed out that forcing student-athletes off campus hurts the very things the athletics department is supposed to do. School spirit and fundraising are hindered when these programs are not seen by students and alumni.

    That GU wants to build this now (and in some sense has to thanks to Pitt and ‘Cuse) is not their fault, nor should it be. After many years of delay, I think its more than about time.


    I can’t speak much to the cemetery issue (other than remembering one neighbor suggest that as a dormitory location).

    But, per your suggestion about attaching housing to this facility. While it is an idea with merit, and one GU should explore, remember that on a college campus everything is “mixed-use” because no building stands alone. The campus has to work together, particularly when its a small as GU. I would like to avoid a precedent of GU having to put a dormitory onto every building it builds from now until the end of time.

    From a more immediate sense, GU, as has been noted many times, is quite land constrained. There are also strict height requirements, particularly at the edges of campus (where this building will be located). The proposed size and function for this building is appropriate. I simply do not see how a dormitory of any significance can fit into this project and leave enough room for the building’s intended purposes. Space is tight, and cramping all athletic facilities into one building of this size will be tough. Adding a dorm on top of it is probably won’t work realistically (though the neighbors can dream).

    I’ll leave all the readers (student, alumni, administration, neighbor, ANC, whatever else I’m leaving off) with a reminder that this building has already been approved multiple times as an athletic facility. It was in the 2000 campus plan. It has already gone through OGB and Zoning Commission second review more than once, even being extended as recently as November 2009. No neighbor raised this building during testimony during the most recent Campus Plan hearings. This should sail through non-controversially (unless there has been some significant design change to draw OGB’s ire). I urge the ANC to approve this, as there is no compelling reason not not, and hope GU can raise the money to get this desperately needed facility built.

  6. RobRob

    Well I’m glad we can agree that the university is prioritizing its athletic program over its efforts to house more of its growing population of undergrads, despite my lack of understanding of Georgetown’s history and what it takes to run a world-class university.

  7. Walter

    H. R. Haldeman used to scribble TL2 on memos, which was shorthand for Too Little Too Late.

    The Big East conference is threatened with implosion because of conference realignments, and what will happen to Georgetown basketball if the largesse from being a Big East member is no longer there in the future: continue paying rent to play at the Verizon Center, or play for free in McDonough?

    As Villanova was cited as an example, ‘Nova (another Big East member) has two facilities available: an on-campus venue seating 6,500, and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where the Flyers and Sixers also play. So Villanova has a fallback if Big East finances go south…

    Given that Georgetown passed on the Visitation land, and passed on the Mount Vernon campus, building a sparkling new practice facility and subsequently finding itself playing games in McDonough would certainly continue the tradition of wise decisions by the university’s leaders.

  8. @RobRob

    I think you may have missed what I was trying say. Perhaps I wasn’t clear, so I’ll do my best to clarify (I promise I’ll keep this much shorter).

    GU is not prioritizing athletics over housing. It has spent much of the past decade prioritizing housing over every other program (both athletic and academic) at the school. This has come at a considerable expense (real dollars, the University’s debt, failing facilities that hurt recruitment and fundraising, etc). That GU is now trying to play catch up is not a prioritization over housing, but rather a result of prioritizing housing. And, GU is still committed to additional housing as evidenced by the 2010 campus plan, which contains even more housing, with a firm completion date well before improvements to any other campus facility included in that plan.

    Besides, even if GU would rather use this space and funding for housing, it would be legally impossible. All student housing included in the 2000 campus plan (the one GU is still operating under) has been built. The next housing is in the 2010 campus plan, which has yet to be passed, mostly due to neighborhood objections (though GU bears some responsibility, particularly as it relates to DDOT). Moreover, as GM and others have frequently pointed out, this 2010 plan is most likely headed for the courts before a final resolution, which will lead to even larger delays. If more housing is such a strong priority for you, RobRob, I would suggest you encourage passage of the plan to get those 250 beds promised closer to reality. They cannot be built until the plan is passed.

    If your ultimate goal is 100% of students on campus (or, out of your neighborhood) then you and I fundamentally disagree and I don’t believe any amount of reason can reach you. For a DC government zoning body to force such a thing on a university would be unprecedented nationwide and not something I would support my government doing. Perhaps the differences just are not reconcilable.

    @Walter: I tend to agree with most of what you say. The conference realignments are scary for GU athletics and no one is quite sure what the future will hold. However, this emphasizes the need for the practice facility even more. Having a state-of-the-art facility can keep recruiting strong (not to mention help GU retain its excellent coaching staff) during this period of uncertainty. And, if the Big East does implode (less likely for the moment due to the PAC-12’s and Big-12’s decisions), can help GU stay competitive to afford the Verizon Center.

    Even if GU basketball does take a step back, McDonough will still be inadequate for men’s basketball. The ideal would be a 6000 to 8000 seat arena on campus that can double as the practice facility and game arena, but I somehow doubt that would pass muster with the neighborhood and government agencies. At least the practice facility is a strong step in the right direction, and, as I noted above, something the neighbors and the government has little to object to.

    (Maybe that wasn’t shorter, my apologies)

  9. asuka

    And Topher, once again you try to make a strong argument for CAG. Say, when are you going to put a disclaimer on your blog that states you’re its secretary? You know, in interest of full disclosure and all.

  10. Walter

    RobRob, as you probably know, the Presidents of the Patriot League, where Georgetown plays football, deferred a decision on awarding football scholarships. (Georgetown is opposed.) Given what is going on in college football these days, the deferral, in retrospect, seems quite wise. But the question remains, when, not if, the Patriot League awards scholarships, will Georgetown stay or go?

    If Rutgers and the Univ. of Connecticut join Syracuse and Pitt in exiting the Big East, the remaining schools proximate to Georgetown are Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, West Virginia, and Villanova. Given Georgetown’s reticence to spend big money on athletics (other than men’s basketball), I see a conference where the cost of playing non-revenue sports with schools as distant as Texas, Illinois, Kentucky, Florida, and Wisconsin, as being financially untenable for Georgetown.

    So whither Georgetown? My two cents worth of advice would be don’t leap before you look. Georgetown might rue the day that it failed to use those tennis courts to renovate and expand McDonough to become its homecourt basketball venue, when renting the Verizon becomes ridiculous because Georgetown is no longer in the Big East, or Big East foes don’t draw the crowds they once did.

    The BCS football schools (including those in the Big East) are the ones driving the bus, and basketball schools such as Georgetown, are either simply along for the ride, or getting tossed under the bus.

  11. RNM

    I will pass on the subject of realignment and other NCAA related issues, since even as an undergraduate I had no interest in GU sports. Seriously, I only went to one game in my years there when dragged by a still good friend for free to an NIT game in McDonough.

    The underlying point is that the new facility is a perfectly reasonable use of land that is clearly within the campus. Could GU house more students on campus? Sure, but why should they. As others have pointed out they have a very high rate of on campus housing. And as I have been told many times by friends and students it isn’t like the University wasn’t here when any of us opted to move to Georgetown. Again, as with so much of what floats up on this blog or whatever it is…it feels like there is no perspective. Things have actually gotten better. I say this as an alum who lives surrounded on all sides by current students and has for two decades. Is it perfect? Do I have the peace and quiet that I enjoyed last week at a house perched along the ocean? No. However, it is a city, it is a community with a world class college and there are aspects to that which impact quality of life. On the plus side, I don’t have to worry about my home being blown away by a Hurricane…the again maybe I do. 😉

    Ultimately, certain elements of this community have taken a posture reminiscent of current Republican tax ideology…opposition at all costs at all times. Nothing that GU wants or does is ever viewed as good or even neutral…it is always in opposition to the community in the minds of some. It is something to be fought, at all times. I get that GU has not always been a good neighbor and that as a business its concerns are not and should not be primarily about being a good neighbor but about being a good business. It is fair to call them out when they overstep, say like the Co-Generation plant. However, fighting over building a perfectly acceptable use building on campus just seems petty and vindictive. Years ago, I sat with a bunch of neighbors as Alan Brangman talked about GU’s plans for the old Wormly School they owned at the time. We sat there in the decaying building and there was no pleasing the crowd who came with swords drawn. When it was suggested that the University literally build a big wall around the compound lessen impact of noise and light, I suggested towers with arrow slits pointing out the utter lunacy of some of the suggestions. The residents won…leaving the Wormly School decaying for years more before it was developed and subsequently sits vacant (after being stalled for years as a construction site)…of course GU did make about 6 million when it sold the building. Sometimes I think it will be easier to bring peace to the Middle East than smooth Town-Gown conflicts. Especially when people get their panties in a bunch over things of utter unimportance.

    We live in a city…it has always and always will have rats…parking will be less than perfect…businesses will come and go.
    We live next to a University (or really between two) and that which ads vitality and energy to the community comes so at the cost of the peaceful serenity of an assisted living facility.

    There are legitimate steps these competing interests can take to soften the edges…but when parties are drawn up on divisive and stark lines that the other is the enemy than no compromise is possible. When every move of the other is treated like and act of war demanding retaliation or blocking…then who wins. I am fairly sure GU will outlive all of us. Sadly I also imagine we will be having the same arguments forever…maybe we should just talk about the weather…wet out there isn’t it.

  12. RNM

    PS: The legend I was told as an undergrad was that New South dorms were based on a minimum security prison model. I can see that. At least they were more liveable in many ways than Village C where rooms were tiny and closets forgotten (as in there were none) so large free standing wardrobes that wouldn’t hold a 3 season wardrobe were used and took up 1/3 of the floor space. So, maybe GU has a tradition of looking at prison or barracks style housing.

    Wonders if some of you will now suggest guard towers and snipers around the campus perimeter and a two door airlock style front gate to contain the inmates, err students. If so, I want the arrow slits incorporated….

  13. Old Georgetowner

    1) The problem with what Alan Brangman told the neighbors of the Wormley School is that it was untrue. He claimed that Wormley would only be used for extra academic office space. He gave his word on this point. It later emerged — in writing — that the University had long had well-developed plans to put a new public policy school on the Wormley site. For more than a year, Brangman and others at the university did everything they could to keep this fact from the community. Fortunately, some kind soul at GU leaked detailed material about the public policy school plan to Wormley’s neighbors — at which point, with the help of the ANC, the game was over. When people like Brangman show up at public meetings and repeatedly make false statements — statements they know are untrue — is it any wonder that the neighbors take a dim view of GU and its intentions?

    2) All the units within the old Wormley building have been sold — for very high prices.

  14. Dizzy

    Dizzy, as always you make a strong case on your employers behalf. And you’re right that some anonymous commenter once tastelessly suggested GU move the Jesuit cemetery. Then again, in 1984 the President of Georgetown said it was the official position of the school that the graves of hundreds of former Georgetown residents should be removed from Holy Rood cemetery so that GU could expand there. So maybe it’s only tasteless when it’s priests?

    Thanks, TM! Do you want to tell my boss that – maybe he’ll give me a raise ;D

    The Holy Rood issue is one of these 7-decades long Church internecine fights in which no one comes out looking good. I don’t know the exact context of Tim Healy’s quote on that topic, but IIRC, it was taken from a letter he wrote to someone in the Archdiocese of Washington. I tend to view it as more of a hardball negotiating position than an actual statement of University policy.

    In any case, if there’s anyone who’s qualified to judge the propriety of reburying Catholic parishioners, it would be a priest, no? I think there are some objectively good reasons for suggesting such a thing – the various elevation-related issues make it a nightmare to upkeep and potentially difficult for visitors to navigate.

    Then, we have Old Georgetowner:

    The problem with what Alan Brangman told the neighbors of the Wormley School is that it was untrue. He claimed that Wormley would only be used for extra academic office space. He gave his word on this point. It later emerged — in writing — that the University had long had well-developed plans to put a new public policy school on the Wormley site.

    I’m not sure what the public policy school is if not extra academic office space. I mean, it’s a historic school building – why is it not acceptable to use it as a school building? Have you been to the offices of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute recently? Either their old ones in the Car Barn or their new ones in Old North? There is nothing even remotely objectionable about them or their impact or anything that distinguishes them from any other collection of academic office space.

    Instead, we got fantastical sturm und drang about how the public policy people would be throwing nightly keggers and destroying the fabric of Georgetown.

  15. Old Georgetowner

    1) Alan Brangman specifically promised that the school would not ever be used for classrooms, lecture halls, etc. That is no way consistent with a public policy school centered on the Wormley Building and any suggestion to the contrary is, well, Jesuitical.

    2) It was university officials themselves who raised the topic of regular cocktail parties be held outside the Wormley building, on a terrace that would be specially built for the purpose. But they allowed that this would probably not be more than four nights a week, weather permitting.

    3) It’s worth remembering that the neighbors were supportive of GU’s purchase of the building based on Brangman’s initial representations. It was only when it became painfully obvious that the university had very different plans for the building — and had had those plans from the very beginning — that the neighbors rose in united opposition to the project.

    4) It does not help the reputation of the university to consistently misrepresent facts which are already known to the community, and well-documented in ANC proceedings. At the very least, it suggests that the university has not learned from the experience.

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