Assembly Hall to carry Simon Skjodt name after major renovation

Indiana University's Assembly Hall will be renamed Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall after the school uses a $40 million gift from IU graduate and Indianapolis philanthropist Cindy Simon Skjodt to renovate the facility, IU announced Thursday afternoon.

The donation, the largest ever given to the IU Athletics Department, will fund major improvements to the 42-year-old Assembly Hall, which plays host to the university’s basketball games.

The gift also will launch the school's ambitious $150 million "Catching Excellence: The Campaign for Indiana University Athletics" capital campaign.

Skjodt (pronounced Scott) is the daughter of late shopping mall magnate Melvin Simon. Her recent gifts include $2 million to the Herron School of Art and Design’s Art Therapy Program and $1.5 million to the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Skjodt, who was named a 2013 Woman of Influence by IBJ in October, will make the donation through the Samerian Foundation, which she founded and leads.

IU said the renovation will "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 is expected to take place after improvements are completed, as early as 2016. IU said the project will not interfere with basketball, commencement or other major activities that typically take place in the building.

The project will preserve the current seat configuration and seating capacity, add bathrooms and new video scoreboard. The south lobby will be restructured with a new entryway and "dramatic" atrium, IU said. Existing bathrooms and concession stands will be remodeled.

Box seat-style seating will be added above the south baseline bleachers to generate more revenue. Escalators will replace ramps in the south lobby.

The project also will update the facility's HVAC and other infrastructure systems. A technology center will be added to improve video-production and game-day broadcasts.

In August, IU Athletic Director Fred Glass told IBJ the 17,472-seat facility would be renovated—not replaced—adding that replacement would require “the mother of all capital campaigns.”

Thursday’s announcement would mark a reversal of what IU trustees said before Glass was hired in late 2008—that renovation was impractical.

Skjodt graduated from Indiana University in 1980. She also holds a masters degree from Butler University.

The Samerian Foundation is named for the Skjodt's three adult children, Samantha, Erik and Ian. Samantha and Erik are 2012 Indiana University graduates and Ian is an IU freshman. Skjodt is married to Paul Skjodt, a former professional hockey player who owns the Indiana Ice.

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