Historic $40 million gift will renovate IU's Assembly Hall and launch capital campaign for IU Athletics

Posted by: IU Bloomington Newsroom  | Thursday, December 19, 2013

In recognition of largest gift in IU Athletics history, home of IU Hoosiers to be renamed the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie today announced that IU Athletics has received a $40 million gift -- the largest in its history -- from IU alumna Cindy Simon Skjodt to provide much-needed renovations to Assembly Hall and launch IU Athletics’ ambitious and unprecedented $150 million “Catching Excellence: The Campaign for Indiana University Athletics” capital campaign. McRobbie also announced that in honor of the landmark gift made by Catching Excellence co-chair Cindy Simon Skjodt and her philanthropic organization, the Samerian Foundation, IU will rename Assembly Hall the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“The Simon Family name has long been synonymous with transformative philanthropy, and this extraordinary gift from Cindy Simon Skjodt and her family will allow IU to preserve and improve one of the great venues in college athletics for the next generation of Hoosier basketball fans,” McRobbie said. “We are deeply indebted to Cindy Simon Skjodt and the entire Simon family for their deep and continued support across the full spectrum of Indiana University’s mission.”

Simon Skjodt, a well-known philanthropist and passionate community leader, and the entire Simon family have been particularly generous to Indiana University, with a $50 million gift to the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis and the creation of Simon Hall on the Bloomington campus as a center for multidisciplinary science. Simon Skjodt recently endowed the Melvin Simon Chair in Philanthropy at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in honor of her late father.

Other recent philanthropic gifts by Simon Skjodt have included a $2 million gift to IU Health Methodist Hospital for a new institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a Center for Professional Enrichment and a $2 million gift to endow a chair in the Herron School of Art and Design’s art therapy program. Simon Skjodt has also helped to fund overseas study scholarships through the IU College of Arts and Sciences, committed funding to help create the IU Health Riley Hospital for Children Simon Family Tower, and supported along with her siblings the Bess Meshulam Simon Music Library and Recital Center on the Bloomington campus in honor of her late mother.

“I grew up going to Indiana University games and have great memories of watching basketball games with my father,” Simon Skjodt said. “The atmosphere in Assembly Hall is truly unmatched anywhere in college basketball.

“Everyone in our family has enjoyed incredible experiences with Indiana University. We feel fortunate for our IU relationships, and it is rewarding to give back. We hope others in Hoosier Nation who are able to do so will also give back to help make the Catching Excellence campaign a success.”

“This tremendous gift is another example of the extraordinary and ongoing dedication of Cindy and her family to the continued success of all aspects of Indiana University,” IU Foundation President and CEO Dan Smith said. “Their willingness to breathe new life into this important venue is inspiring, and their efforts to lead by example with engagement and service are truly exceptional.”

“We are honored and thrilled that Cindy and her family are jump-starting the much-needed athletics capital campaign with this historically generous gift,” said Fred Glass, IU vice president and director for intercollegiate athletics. “Not unlike the way her father and uncle saved the Pacers for Indiana by buying the team in 1983, this gift will make it possible in essence to save Assembly Hall and preserve the best home-court advantage in college basketball. We are all very grateful to Cindy Simon Skjodt.”

Funds from the gift will be used for much-needed renovations and improvements to the 42-year-old facility. The plan is to maintain the character and experience of the venue while enhancing the facility’s functionality so as to preserve the greatest home-court advantage in college basketball. The renaming will take effect upon the completion of the renovations and improvements, which is anticipated to occur as early as 2016. The multi-year project will not interfere with basketball, commencement or other major activities that take place in the building.

Refurbishments of Assembly Hall will focus on improving amenities to enhance the fan experience while preserving the current seat configuration and seating capacity. The south lobby will be restructured with a new entryway and dramatic atrium. Escalators will replace ramps in the south lobby. Throughout the arena, new branding and graphics will be updated to celebrate the tradition and success of IU basketball.

Existing bathrooms and concession stands will be remodeled and new bathrooms will be added. A large state-of-the-art video scoreboard will replace the current bifurcated scoreboard, improving fan experience for all fans in Assembly Hall, especially those sitting in the balcony. Box-seat-style seating will be added above the south baseline bleachers and will generate revenue to pay for this seating and to help fund ongoing upkeep of Assembly Hall.

Behind the scenes, Assembly Hall’s HVAC and other infrastructure systems will be updated and a state-of-the-art broadcast technology center will be added to enhance IU Athletics video production and game day broadcasts.

Assembly Hall has been home to IU basketball since 1971, and since then has hosted more than 12 million fans. Due to its unique, large-capacity design with the majority of its 17,472 seats on either side of the court, Assembly Hall -- with the nation’s largest student section (7,800) -- is regarded as one of the loudest and most intimidating venues in college basketball. A 2012 poll of Big Ten basketball players judged Assembly Hall to be the toughest home arena in the league. Assembly Hall has been home to three men’s basketball national championship teams, and the Hoosiers have a 504-98 record in the 42 seasons at the arena.

“Without question Assembly Hall is vital to the future of our program,” men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean said. “This incredible gift will ensure our players, coaches and fans are able to create many more memorable moments in a building filled with tradition and excellence.

"All over the country, people know what an intimidating environment Assembly Hall can be. It's one of our greatest assets, and we are excited to see improvements made to our legendary facility that will dramatically improve the Hoosier fan experience.

"We are incredibly grateful to Cindy Simon Skjodt and her family for their generosity in funding Assembly Hall's renovations and kicking off the Catching Excellence campaign with this significant gift," Crean added. "The Simon Skjodt family is made up of diehard Hoosier fans, and Hoosier Nation will be proud to have the Simon Skjodt name grace Assembly Hall."

"From the first moment our student-athletes walk into Assembly Hall, they understand how important this building is to our program, the university and the state of Indiana," women's basketball head coach Curt Miller said.

"It's such an incredible honor to be the recipients of this significant gift from a woman who is both a generous IU alumna and devoted community leader," Miller added. "We cannot thank Cindy enough. Beyond her extraordinary generosity, Cindy serves as an example and inspiration to young women, including the members of my team, through her leadership, passion and philanthropy."

The goal of the IU Athletics Catching Excellence campaign is to raise $150 million in private support for new and improved athletic facilities, endowments and on-going annual support of student-athlete scholarships. Additional details of the Catching Excellence campaign will be announced in the coming weeks, including its other capital projects; honorary co-chairs; and steering committee members.

The Catching Excellence campaign name is derived from a Vince Lombardi quote: “Perfection is not attainable; but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

Cindy Simon Skjodt graduated from Indiana University in 1980. She also holds a master's degree from Butler University. The Samerian Foundation is named for the Skjodt’s three adult children, Samantha, Erik and Ian Skjodt, who share the Simon enthusiasm and passion for IU’s Bloomington campus. Samantha and Erik are 2012 Indiana University graduates. Ian is a freshman at Indiana University. Cindy is married to Paul Skjodt, a former professional hockey player who owns the Indiana Ice of the U.S. Hockey League.

In addition to founding and leading the Samerian Foundation, Simon Skjodt’s civic activities include her board of director position with the Indiana Sports Corp. and Coalition for Homelessness Prevention, the Indiana Pacers Foundation, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Indiana University Foundation, Indianapolis Foundation and Methodist Health Foundation.

To learn more about the Catching Excellence campaign or gift and naming opportunities, please contact the IU Varsity Club at 812-855-0866 or varsity@indiana.edu.

Source: IU Bloomington Newsroom.