DC Zoning Commission unanimously approves new Athletic Training Facility to be built next to McDonough Gymnasium

McNuttMonica McNutt playing in McDonough Gymnasium against La Salle on Nov. 19, 2010

Georgetown scored a victory last Thursday when the DC Zoning Commission unanimously approved the University’s revised plans for  a new athletic training center to be built on the tennis courts adjacent to the McDonough Gymnasium. The design for the Intercollegiate Athletic Center was originally part of the 2000 campus plan.

After a presentation of from the University on the changes to the project, administration officials and coaches responded to questions from the zoning commissioners.

The possibility of putting additional student housing in the building was the most debated issue of the hearing. “Some of the feedback we’ve received has been a disappointment about not including housing,” said Zoning Commissioner Peter May. “Has there been any though given to the potential future expansion of the building going upwards, since there’s very tight constraints of the campus?”

According to representatives of the University, putting student housing on top of the two-story portion of the ATF would only create enough space for 70 to 75 residents, which is not a large enough number to engender a dormitory community. Going on, they stated that the minimum number to create a reasonable dormitory at a University the size of Georgetown is 250. By comparison, Darnall Hall houses 300 students.

Later, in a cross-examination by ANC2E chairman, Ron Lewis disagreed with Georgetown’s assessment. “Other Universities, I know firsthand, do have mixed-use buildings. One of them has the University president on the first two floors and student housing on the top two floors, and they seem to coexist very well,” he said. “If I may just say one more thing, after hearing the testimony about how many students it takes to have an acceptable housing facility, Georgetown University has a housing complex now called Magis Row. It only has around 65 students in it, and if that can work—and our position has been that there has been to many students there, not too few—then it can work somewhere else.”

University spokeswoman Stacy Kerr responded that Magis Row is an apartment-style complex, and therefore has different requirements to create a community than dormitories do.

Other issues were raised during the course of the hearing. Zoning Commissioner Marcie Cohen asked if Georgetown has reached out to the community with its sports program, inquiring specifically about underserved communities and local public schools. John Thompson III testified that each coach is responsible for organizing their team’s volunteer efforts, but, yes that the teams are visible in the community. In response, Cohen asked “So there’s no fixed plan, it’s just helter skelter?” Athletics Director Lee Reed explained that every team does have an organized plan for service, but they simply do it at different times. “We are very committed to serving the committee in which we reside,” he said. “Given the different times that student athletes are available by team, by season, [so] we let our coaches do a lot of that work.” According to him, the teams spend “thousands and thousands of hours” volunteering in the community in programs such as Grassroots Hoyas.

In addition, Georgetown athletes testified on how badly the new facility is needed for the athletics program. Offering their testimony were Lauren Gray, Jeff Green, Markel Starks, and Monica McNutt. Each player testified on how small each team’s space is, and how inadequate the facilities are compared to other schools. McNutt testified:

As a competitor, it’s so disheartening to go to these various schools throughout the conference and check out these state-of-the-art, expansive facilities. When you compare those facilities to the meager accommodations at McDonough, you can’t help but frown… Beyond that, it is even more frustrating to be a member of one of the 29 teams that is forced to share this small space that is McDonough… We all work hard in practice and we smell like hard work after practice, and that just litters the building as various teams are in the hallway… It’s pretty awful.

The 122,000 square-foot structure will be split between two stories and four stories. The building will incorporate dedicated practice space for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Other features will include dedicated locker rooms for each team, expanded office space, weight rooms, an equipment room, team meeting spaces, a sports medicine facility, and a study area for athletes. McDonough arena will still be used for administrative office space and will contain some locker rooms. The women’s  basketball and volleyball teams will still use the area for games.

According to the University, given the fastest possible execution of planning, fundraising, and construction, the new facility should be open by the 2015-2016 academic year. “We will leave here tonight and fly to Chicago first thing in the morning and meet with a group of alums that are interested in hearing how we have done in this process. And they’re eager to get started. They’re eager to help us begin to raise the capital that we need to start construction,” Reed said. “We want to move this project forward as quickly as possible.”

Photo: Julianne Deno

(Assistant) Editor’s Note: A previous version of this post contained errors in quote attribution, which have been corrected. Vox apologizes for the mistake.

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