Charles E. Smith Center – George Washington Colonials
Photos by Gregory Koch and Marc Viquez Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Charles E Smith Center 600 22nd St NW Washington, DC 20052
George Washington Colonials website
Charles E Smith Center website
Year Opened: 1975
Raising High with George Washington
The Charles E. Smith Center is located on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The arena portion of the Smith Center is home to that school’s basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball teams, and it also contains a swimming pool that hosts the Colonials’ swimming and water polo programs. The arena opened in 1975 and is named after local philanthropist Charles E. Smith, who was also a university trustee at GW.
George Washington basketball had a few good years in the mid-2000s, including a 27-3 record in 2005-06 and three straight tournament appearances. Since then, the Colonials have fallen on harder times, though they did win the NIT in 2016.
Food & Beverage 3
There is one concession stand at the Charles E. Smith Center, located in an out of the way area down a flight of stairs from the main entrance. The selection here is very limited, serving items such as pizza, chips, candy, and popcorn. The good news is that everything is very affordable – entrees will cost around $5 or $6, while snacks will cost less. However, between the limited selection and the difficult time getting to and from the concession stand, we recommend you eat before or after the game if possible.
Entering the Charles E. Smith Center will put you into one of the four corners of the arena. From there, you will walk around the concourse then up or down to your seat. All seats are chairbacks, although there is limited legroom. Keep in mind that a small portion of the court will be obstructed if you are sitting in the upper baseline seats, but you should still be able to see the vast majority of the action. There is a big videoboard over center court that also shows player and team stats, and smaller scoreboards in two of the corners that only show the basic information.
GW does a good job at keeping fans entertained during breaks in the action. There is a decently-sized band called the Colonial Brass as well as recorded music played during timeouts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the costumed mascot is a cartoonish version of George Washington, who roams the crowd throughout the game interacting with fans. There are also cheerleaders and a dance team called the First Ladies.
There is a nice light show during pregame introductions, but depending on where you are sitting, the spotlight may be shining right in your eyes, making it very difficult to see.
George Washington is located in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of DC, about half a mile west of the White House. This is one of the nicer and older neighborhoods in DC and there is plenty nearby. Local restaurants include Bobby’s Burger Palace, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, and Founding Fathers DC, a farm-to-table restaurant that is wildly popular with some locals but which the Washington Post infamously gave a rare zero-star review. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is also nearby.
If you’re willing to stray outside the neighborhood, there is so much to do elsewhere in the District, and the best part is that most of it’s free. Whether it’s visiting the numerous monuments and memorials or one of the many museums, there is something for everybody here. All government-run attractions are free, but some privately run ones are not. Just keep in mind if you want to tour the White House or Capitol, you will need to book in advance
GW fans show up in decent numbers – the arena certainly isn’t deserted, but it isn’t anywhere near full either. However, the fans who are there are passionate and get very into the game. They’ll cheer their team, applaud for good plays, and aren’t afraid to get on the referees’ case if they think there was a bad call. There are times where the Smith Center gets very loud, in part due to the fact that the compact layout helps trap the sound. All in all, the crowd is more passionate than many at this level, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are frequently large banks of empty seats.
Getting to the Charles E. Smith Center is relatively easy if you’re willing to take public transportation. Just take the Silver, Orange, or Blue Line to the Foggy Bottom-GWU station, then walk a few blocks to the arena. If you’re coming from outside the DC area, you can still drive to a suburban station and park there, then take the Metro the rest of the way. Keep in mind, however, that Metro frequently has delays and closures, especially on weekends, but some which last for weeks or months at a time. Unfortunately, this can make getting anywhere a frustrating experience. Check the WMATA website ahead of your visit to be sure nothing is going on that will impact your trip. If you do choose to drive, there is street and garage parking surrounding the arena, but it is very expensive.
While getting to the arena is easy, getting around it is somewhat harder. The narrow concourses make it difficult to move around, and the concession stand and restrooms are in out of the way places that seem to be wherever they found room to put them. With such a compact design due to being in the middle of a city, it is understandable that options were limited. Nevertheless, this can make moving around difficult.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets range from $20 for upper-level baseline seats to $50 for courtside seats. Regular lower-level seats at center-court are $35, while upper-level sideline seats are $25. These prices are relatively close to the average for the A-10. However, you can get a much better deal by taking advantage of a discount package. The “Family Four-Pack” offers four upper-level seats for $8.75 each. Mini-plans start at $10/game for three, five, or nine games, while season tickets start at $100, which works out to about $5.50 a game. Keep in mind that these multi-game packs need to be purchased well in advance to ensure the best selection. While attending a GW game is not a bad deal regardless, it can go from an OK deal to an excellent one by taking advantage of a discount package.
One bonus star for the banners hanging down from the roof of the arena showing the Colonials’ accomplishments, including the 2016 NIT.
A second one for the flags behind the GW bench showing all the countries that the team’s players come from.
A third for one of the more amusing traditions in college basketball. Before the game, when the PA announcer reads the standard announcement that smoking is prohibited in the arena, the band will yell “Except on the court!” If you can make a tradition out of something that boring, you deserve a bonus star.
A fourth and final bonus star for the graphics shown on the videoboard during the national anthem. This footage of various monuments, memorials, and other significant national sites throughout DC is a very moving tribute to this country.
There are really three tiers to Division I college basketball in the Washington, DC area. The first tier is national powerhouses Georgetown and Maryland. George Washington is in the second tier along with fellow Atlantic 10 school George Mason. The third and lowest tier is low-majors Howard and American. While George Washington doesn’t have the same prestige as the top-tier schools, a visit to the Charles E. Smith Center to see the Colonials can still be an enjoyable experience at an affordable price for the whole family.