Smith Center Pool Saved: George Washington’s Aquatic Sports Teams Returning Home Next Season

In a turn of events, George Washington aquatic sports teams will return to their Smith Center pool for the foreseeable future after university plans to convert the facility into a new basketball facility fell through thanks to a divine act of structural integrity.

Built in the 1970s, the Smith Center has walls that would have needed to be removed or modified in order to renovate the facility. During the process of designing the remodel, engineers discovered that removing one of the walls could have caused structural issues in the building. They discussed moving forward anyway, but the workaround required cost and time overruns that would have put the facility offline for a year. Ultimately, university leadership decided together with architects to scrap their plans to decommission the Smith Center pool.

The Smith Center pool is an eight-lane, 25-yard pool located adjacent to campus and just a few blocks from the National Mall and the White House. George Washington’s aquatic sports teams were initially expected to relocate a few miles northwest from the main Foggy Bottom Campus to the GW Mount Vernon Athletics Facility, but athletes voiced concerns that they could all be accommodated there.

Last month, athletic director Tanya Vogel said the university had an agreement in principle with a local facility that has an Olympic-sized pool with deep water, without naming which one. With only five months until Smith Center pool scheduled to be filled in September, it remained unknown where the Revolutionaries would swim and play water polo next season.

A petition to save the Smith Center pool started last month by junior swimmer Julia Knox received more than 3,000 signatures. She called it “heartbreaking” to have “essential facilities” taken away following such a successful season. George Washington’s swimming and diving program swept Atlantic 10 conference titles in February and set a program record with three NCAA qualifiers in March. Meanwhile, the Revolutionary men’s basketball team finished last in the A-10 this year and the women placed 11th out of 15 squads.

“Despite these achievements, our athletic department is planning to fill in our pool without providing us with a suitable alternative,” wrote Knox, a Northern Ireland native who last year became the first Revolutionary women to compete at the NCAA Championships since 1995. “This decision threatens not only our athletic success but also our academic performance… We ask you to join us in calling on GW’s athletic department to treat us fairly by halting their plans to fill in our pool until they can provide an adequate alternative solution which does not compromise either our academic or athletic success.”

Less than a month later, Knox’s prayer was answered. It’s great news for George Washington head swim coach Brian Thomas, who has built his combined men’s and women’s program into one of the nation’s top mid-major groups in just six seasons. Thomas has swept the past three A-10 coach of the year honors, reaching new heights during the 2023-24 campaign.

Last fall, George Washington picked up its first dual meet victory ever against a Power Five opponent in Pitt. Even more remarkably, the Revolutionaries pulled off the upset in LCM competition while training within the SCY confines of the Smith Center pool.

They continued their momentum into the spring, sweeping Washington D.C. rival Georgetown in what they thought was their last meet ever in the Smith Center. Then in February, the George Washington men captured their fourth consecutive A-10 crown while the women won their third in a row.

Three Revolutionaries went to NCAAs in March — Ava Topolewski (500 free, 1650 free), junior Ava DeAngelis (100 breast, 200 breast), and redshirt senior Djurdje Matic (100 fly) — highlighted by Matic’s 14th-place finish in the 100 fly (personal-best 44.95).

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2 months ago

GW has had some great success past few seasons, and they’ve had some VERY strong athletes. I know a few went into the portal because of this lingering situation, and maybe this brings em back, maybe it doesn’t, but it won’t leave a devastating impact on the team for years to come!!

2 months ago

How do you expect the GW Athletics Director to act impartially & ensure the welfare of all athletic teams when she also happens to be the Sport supervisor for the Men’s Basketball team? Huge conflict of interest right there…
Thankfully, this farcical event ended up with a good outcome, but the athletes & the parents of the GW Swim & Dive team had to endure weeks of unnecessary stress. How the GW Athletics Dept could simply announce the closure of an existing facility without carefully going through all of the required due diligence and not offering a clear, workable alternative solution with timelines just shows the huge disrespect they have towards… Read more »

Reply to  SMH @ GW
2 months ago

I wouldn’t feel too comfortable regarding future support for the swim program from the athletic administration.

Last edited 2 months ago by swimdad
Big Kicker
2 months ago

That would’ve been disastrous for a rising program like this, glad luck was on their side.

Reply to  Big Kicker
2 months ago

Rising? They’re risen bro, where are they going? Admin clearly doesn’t care about them and if Brian wants to climb the ladder he should probably be looking to get out

2 months ago

mother nature always wins

Comfy Pants
2 months ago

Another win for GW Swim & Dive!

2 months ago

That’s huge! Big win!

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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