Two years after breaking ground on the $62-million Thompson Athletic Center, the Georgetown community gathered to dedicate the campus’ new five-floor athletic facility. The facility serves as a marked improvement for more than 800 of the school’s athletes, giving them access to luxurious locker rooms, theatre-style film rooms and a state-of-the-art weight room.
A hopeful selling point to future recruits, the center also represents years of the highest levels of athletic achievement at Georgetown.
Among the honored guests were University President John J. DeGioia, Athletic Director Lee Reed and former NFL Commissioner Paul Taglibue, a Georgetown alumnus. From the school’s decorated basketball history were former Head Coach John Thompson, Jr., current Head Coach John Thompson III and former star guard and Hall-of-Famer Allen Iverson.
The evening began with speeches from the honored guests, with DeGioia reflecting on the impact and power of Thompson, Jr., a figure who not only guided the basketball team, but also served as a symbol of progressive ideals on The Hilltop.
“John [Thompson, Jr.] is the fulcrum, the bridge that connects us across generations,” DeGioia said of the coach’s legacy.
Thompson, Jr. echoed these sentiments and traced his, at times, tenuous time at Georgetown.
“I was told by [a former] coach here, who I liked, that the Hilltop wasn’t ready for an African-American,” Thompson, Jr. said. “See how far we’ve come?”
In support of his father, Thompson III noted the impact of the basketball program on his life and how it has shaped much of his experience as the team’s current head coach.
“There isn’t a day I don’t wake up thinking about Georgetown basketball…and all the blood, sweat, and tears you all put into this,” Thompson III said. “I’m 50, and I’m fortunate to have [my dad] here every day.”
As the ceremony drew to a close, Thompson addressed a concern that pundits and media outlets raised with regards to the building’s opening. Expensive but upgraded athletic facilities usually raise expectation as most fans correlate new resources to improved results.
“That building is the greatest thing in the world, but it’s not going to help us win,” Thompson, Jr. said. “I hear people say, they got a building now so they’re going to win. Bulls***.”
Regardless, there is exultation and much fanfare on the center’s importance to campus — a project that amassed donations from several basketball greats. While it is natural to assume the center’s favoring of basketball, — both men’s and women’s teams — its facilities do cater to every Division I sport on campus; the weight room is available to all teams and select sports have their own film rooms and locker rooms.
After the ribbon-cutting, Thompson III led a tour of the center that featured the unveiling of new alternate uniforms for the basketball team — matching baby blue jerseys and shorts — that paid homage to uniforms from decades’ past.
Centering the tour was the center’s cornerstone, a full-sized statue of Thompson, Jr., a tribute to the man who coached the Hoyas to three national championship game appearances in four years and oversaw some of basketball’s all-time greatest talent under his tutelage.
After two years of construction, an entire rearranging of campus and countless adornments later, the Thompson Athletic Center stands tall as an official part of the The Hilltop.
Thompson, Jr., however, still feels something is missing.
“[There’s a] problem with the damn statue,” Thompson, Jr. said. “It doesn’t curse.”