March Madness is in full swing! Each basketball season, teams give it their all to reach their divisional finals and Postseason tournaments. The George Washington University Colonials are no exception. From their home court at the Charles E. Smith Center at the GWU Foggy Bottom campus, the sounds of sneakers squeaking, basketballs dribbling, and nets swishing have been heard for over 30 years. GWU is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference, which both the Men’s and Women’s teams joined in 1983.
The 2016 Women’s A-10 tournament final in Richmond, Va. saw the GWU Women’s team beat Duquesne 63-60. This marks the second consecutive year, and sixth time overall, that the Women have won the A-10 Championship. The Women earned the No. 8 seed in the Sioux Falls Regional and will play Kansas State in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Columbia, S.C. on March 18. This marks the second consecutive season the women have advanced to the NCAA.
The 2016 Men’s A-10 Tournament was played in Brooklyn, N.Y., with the Men’s team advancing to the quarterfinals before falling short with a loss to St. Joseph’s. They have earned a bid in the Postseason National Invitation Tournament and will host Hofstra on March 16.
While the university itself was established in 1821, the Men’s first season was in 1913, followed by the Women in 1915. Throughout the past century, the Colonials have undergone challenges and change, fielding a men’s varsity basketball team every year with the exception of 1919-1920 (WWI) and 1944-1945 (WWII).
In 2008, expanding needs resulted in a three-year renovation project which was stimulated by a $10 million donation from the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, the Charles E. Smith Family Foundation, and Robert P. and Arlene R. Kogod. Completed in 2011, the renovation included replacing the main gym’s existing wooden floor. In addition to basketball, the Smith Center has served as the home of GWU’s Department of Athletics and Recreation, with the primary purpose of housing 27 intercollegiate varsity sports. These include Basketball, Volleyball, Gymnastics, Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving and Men’s and Women’s Water Polo.
The new floor, Robbins’ MVP athletic flooring system, was installed by Weyer’s Floor Service, Inc., which has been caring for GWU since the 1980’s. The question of how to preserve the past while welcoming for the future was answered in a unique way. C. Forbes, Inc. used pieces of the 30-year-old floor, which were cut into sections and embedded into lucite blocks. The commemorative pieces were presented to donors upon the Re-inauguration of the Center on May 3, 2011. The floor itself may have changed, but for a generation of players and fans who witnessed an era, a piece of history had been captured.
Robbins’ MVP system focuses on optimizing biomechanical interaction between athlete and floor by minimizing vibration and maximizing uniformity. It is also one of the first in its class to pass stringent MMFA standards and is PUR Compliant, providing excellent strength and longevity to competitive sports surfaces.
The court itself continues to evolve. A unique floor redesign inspired by the physical location in Foggy Bottom was added in 2013. Featuring silhouettes of the U.S. Capitol, White House and Washington Monument, literally under the player’s feet, the five week makeover was ambitious. Head Coach Mike Lonergan said “the only thing I asked is that we keep it outside the three-point lines, which they did.”
Larry Weyer is the owner of the Odenton, Md. company which handles “just about every floor in the Washington area,” including the Verizon Center and the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center. Having first laid down the current GWU floor, Weyer was responsible for the project. Steps involved sanding down the wood, laying down a large vinyl stencil of the buildings, then staining each image on the floor. They were sealed in, the rest of the court was painted, and a full buff completed the process. Weyer calls it “the biggest and most intricate stain job we’ve ever done.” The pride exhibited by the players on court continues to match the scope of the project.