BLOOMINGTON — A $40 million gift from Indianapolis philanthropist Cindy Simon Skjodt to renovate Indiana University's Assembly Hall will give the arena a new name, a new entryway and other updates that officials said Thursday will preserve the iconic arena for generations.
The 42-year-old home to IU's men's and women's basketball teams will be renamed the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall once renovations are complete as early as 2016, university president Michael McRobbie said during a news conference there.
"This is an honor and dream come true for me," said Simon Skjodt, a 1980 IU graduate and daughter of late Indiana Pacers co-owner and shopping mall magnate Melvin Simon.
"I come from a sports fanatic background. Waves of emotion come over me as I think how proud my father would be," said Simon Skjodt, who's married to Paul Skjodt, owner of the Indiana Ice of U.S. Hockey League.
Athletic director Fred Glass noted Simon Skjodt's father helped keep the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis when he and his brother, Herb, bought the team in 1983, ending fears of a relocation.
"You are saving Assembly Hall for Indiana University," Glass told Simon Skjodt. The iconic arena is "starting to show its age," he said.
The improvements to the 17,472-seat arena will include revenue-generating box seats, a new south entryway, a state-of-the-art video scoreboard, escalators, and remodeled restrooms and concession stands, IU said.
Men's basketball coach Tom Crean described Assembly Hall as a "national treasure" and called Simon Skjodt's gift "a monumental moment."
"It gives us a continued competitive edge" in recruiting, Crean said.
The gift, the largest in IU athletics history, also launched a campaign dubbed "Catching Excellence" to raise $150 million in private support for new and improved athletic facilities, endowments and on-going annual support of student-athlete scholarships., IU said.
Simon Skjodt, who has two children who are IU graduates and a third who's an undergraduate, is the co-chair of the campaign.
"I strongly believe if you love this university, you should give back to this university," she said.
The gift is latest of several from the Simon family to the university. They include 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 also donated $1.5 million for Melvin Simon Chair in Philanthropy and $2 million to endow a chair in the Herron School of Art and Design's art therapy program.