Philanthropist donates $40M for Assembly Hall renovation

Cindy Simon Skjodt

An Indianapolis philanthropist has donated $40 million to renovate Indiana University's Assembly Hall.

IU President Michael McRobbie announced the donation by Cindy Simon Skjodt at a news conference Thursday afternoon. McRobbie added that after renovations are complete, the arena will be renamed "Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall."

Cindy Simon Skjodt, an IU alumna, is the daughter of late Pacers owner Mel Simon.

"Waves of emotion come over me as I think of how proud my dad would be," she said. "I strongly believe if you love this university, you should give back to this university."

"I am so thrilled with the naming that the gift will generate. It's not just a generous gift, but I'm thrilled that your name and your family's name will grace Assembly Hall," said IU Athletic Director Fred Glass.

The donation is the largest in the history of the university's athletic department.

"When I was here, it saved my life, basically, to be here and to be nurtured by this university," Simon Skjodt said. "This facility has to stay. It's the best sports facility in the country."

IU says the improvements to the 42-year-old 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.

"I think we'll combine the best of Assembly Hall by preserving the home court advantage, plus adding some additional amenities to improve the fan experience," Glass said.

"What she just did and what the Simon Skjodt family just did is preserve the legacy of a national treasure," said IU men's basketball coach Tom Crean.

The construction will start after the basketball season in the spring and should be finished by 2016.

The donation was announced as part of the athletic department's upcoming "Catching Excellence" campaign, which aims to raise $150 million for the department.