By Jennifer Bognet
Just before Christmas, Bognet Construction sealed a deal with the Greater Washington Sports Alliance (GWSA) to rebuild its new offices at 2300 14th St. in Washington, DC.
GWSA chairman Fernando Murias (pictured below), who is also the global compliance services leader for Latin America for Price Waterhouse Coopers, said that the contract was awarded to OTJ Architects, Inc. and Bognet because both companies truly understood the mission and vision for the organization.
“Both Bognet and OTJ looked at this project not like a job, but like they were our partners in accomplishing something important for DC and the groups we serve — disadvantaged children and the homeless,” explains Fernando of the $2.7 million, 4,700-square-foot build-out project.
“They have had to work within tough deadlines and as a result of the Enterprise Zone Bond financing requirements, had to sort out a number of modifications and details during construction. The leaders of both firms have proven to be committed to getting the job done on time and to our specifications. We couldn’t be more pleased.”
Following is a Q&A I recently conducted with Fernando, which describes the details of his organization and specifics about the build-out project that is scheduled to be finished in June 2010.
Jennifer Bognet: I know that you have had your offices inside the Greater Washington Board of Trade since you founded the organization in 2003. Why did GWSA want to move its offices to 2300 14th St.?
Fernando Murias: Let me answer that question by first telling you a little about who we are and how we are hoping to meet our long-term goals.
GWSA is a regional nonprofit sports commission created to foster economic development and civic pride through the power of sports. GWSA’s mission encompasses the attraction of sporting events to the region, the promotion of regional professional and amateur franchises, the support of youth investment organizations and the branding of Washington, DC, as a world-class sports destination.
The GWSA mission
We have two major goals: To attract marquee sporting events to the region, and to support youth investment organizations that use sports to build character and values, encourage fitness and enhance education.
As you noted, we’ve been located at the Greater Washington Board of Trade since I founded the Sports Alliance seven years ago. While it has been great to be located in the heart of DC’s business district, and we have the utmost respect for Board of Trade president Jim Dinegar, it was more in line with our mission to locate our offices in an area where many of our customers are based.
Jennifer Bognet: We’ve been looking at the design that OTJ developed for the new offices for months now, and it’s going to be really spectacular. What drove your design decisions?
Fernando Murias: Since our goals are to connect to the community and to attract new sporting events to the area, my partner Bob Sweeney and I really wanted to create a space that would allow us to brand ourselves and facilitate our vision of a sports incubator to help other nonprofits that use sports in their mission to help the disadvantaged. Accordingly, we wanted to create a space that was open and modern with very clean lines.
One of the big design elements in the new offices will be a beautiful display for our “Greater Washington Sports Hall of Fame Champions.” Each year we honor individuals that have made a huge and lasting impact in our community through the use of sports at our big fundraiser, the SneakerBall.
Our past inductees include: Eunice Kennedy Schriver (2009), Adrian Dantley, Brian Mitchell, and Brig Owns (2008), Bobby Mitchell, Frank Robinson, and Deborah Yow (2007), James Brown, Ted Leonsis, and Morgan Wootten (2006), Dominique Dawes (pictured right) Art Monk and John Thompson Jr. (2005), and Darrell Green (pictured below), Abe Pollin, and Gary Williams (2004). [Read more about that below.]
The offices will also provide incubator space and offer free rent to nonprofit sporting organizations such as Back on My Feet, which promotes the self-sufficiency of homeless populations by engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem; Winners Lacrosse, which teaches youths in underserved neighborhoods in DC how to play lacrosse and Street Soccer USA,, which uses team sports to help adults and youths (ages 15+) overcome poverty and homelessness through sports.
Because the office is located at street level, we feel we will be more accessible to the community we serve. There is a Girls and Boys Club located just blocks away.
The offices will also be a showcase for all that we do and will include a beautiful board room where we will host meetings with the owners of prominent sporting venues who are considering bringing their events to DC. We are very excited about moving in this summer.
Jennifer Bognet: Tell us more about your organization’s big annual fundraiser, the SneakerBall, which I’ve had the opportunity to attend.
Fernando Murias: I love the SneakerBall because it is the only black tie and sneakers gala that annually celebrates the best of sports in the Greater Washington, DC, region. It not only creates avenues for corporate philanthropy to enhance the region’s youth sports programs and facilities, it’s an incredible amount of fun.
Everyone is dressed in suits and gowns — and terrific sneakers. The event is hosted in September at the National Building Museum, and more than 1,000 people attend, including 50+ professional athletes & Olympians. Plus, there are cheerleaders, marching bands and great food.
We have awards for the best sports play of the year, the best athlete and fun awards like best mascot. As I mentioned earlier, we honor and induct individuals each year into our Sports Hall of Champions. In 2009, we honored the incredible Eunice Kennedy Schriver, who founded the Special Olympics in 1962. She died in August, and it was our privilege to give this award to her family. It was a very moving moment, and truly capped off an amazing evening.
Jennifer Bognet: How much money do you usually raise at the event?
Fernando Murias: It ranges from $500,000 to $750,000. Since our annual budget is $2 million, the more money we raise dictates how much we can reach out and accomplish our mission. Our staff of 10 employees, led by our president Bob Sweeney, work hard to stretch those dollars as much as they can.
Jennifer Bognet: What is GWSA’s plan for the coming years? Is expansion on the horizon?
Fernando Murias: Moving into this new space is actually a big step forward. I started the Sports Alliance seven years ago when I was named the managing partner for DC at my firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers.
A part of my job was to be market facing and connect with the community as Price Waterhouse Coopers believes strongly in the concept of “giving back” and in “corporate responsibility.” My predecessor had done a great job connecting with area nonprofits, but was heavily involved with opera and other arts organizations. I’ve always been a huge sports fan, and thought this would be a good area to explore.
Today, our board includes Kevin Payne, CEO of DC United, Greg McLaughlin and Danny Callahan of the Tiger Woods Foundation, Sheila Johnson, who is the president of the Washington Mystics, and Brian Plank, president and CEO of Under Armour, to name a few. Each of these board members supports us financially, and everyone benefits.
So to answer your question, we do hope to expand – but we plan to do it for the next 10 years from these beautiful new offices.
Jennifer Bognet: What events do you hope to bring to the DC region?
Fernando Murias: This is the area that I’m really excited about because there are several possible events in the pipeline.
Bob Sweeney and his team have done an outstanding job of growing this organization and leading us to where we are today. They brought the Frozen Four to DC in 2009 marking the first time ever an NCAA championship was hosted in our city. Bob and his team also worked tirelessly to ensure our region was awarded the Police and Fire Games in 2015 as well as the Army Navy Game in 2011. All of these awards will have an enormous economic impact on the Greater Washington region.
Already this year we brought the Capitol Hill Volleyball Classic to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which included a sell-out field of more than 500 girls’ volleyball teams together in February.
Also in February, GWSA submitted bids to host the NCAA Frozen Four at the Verizon Center in 2013/14 and the NCAA Lacrosse Championship at Fed Ex field in 2013/14. And, we look forward to hosting the First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2011.
The SunTrust National Marathon / CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield Half Marathon held its fifth event in DC in March. Close to 12,000 people registered to run through the city’s eight wards. This is the only marathon we know of where the Mayor runs in his own race!
From May 31 to June 6, we are looking forward to the Melwood Prince George’s County Open on the University of Maryland Golf Course in College Park. The national tour event will include 150 professional golfers and the event will be televised on the Golf Channel.
Jennifer Bognet: Where does GWSA hope to be as an organization in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
Fernando Murias: We hope to be doing what we are doing now — but bigger. Bob and his team are working closely with the Washington Convention and Sports Authority to help bring the FIFA World Cup to DC in 2018.
Incredibly, we have to work that far out. If awarded the final game, it would be like having 5 Super Bowls here at the same time. The Sports Alliance was recently awarded the license by the University Club to promote the Tewaaraton Award. This is the Heisman Trophy for lacrosse, and we’re working closely with the National Museum of the American Indian to help create a higher level of awareness for this prestigious award and ensure the history of the game is not lost on our youth.
We evaluate a host of sporting events from bass fishing to cheerleading and equestrian competitions. If there is a strong economic impact and it creates a positive brand for the region, we are most likely evaluating whether or not to bring it here.
The other major goal for us is to continue to expand our reach to help youths and the homeless through sports and character building. That is an incredibly exciting and important part of the work we do, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of the mission.
So stay tuned. I hope you’ll be hearing a lot more about the GWSA once we open our new doors in June.
About Bognet Construction
Bognet Construction, founded in 1998 by Jim Bognet and Jeff Kaiser, is a $50 million company based in Arlington, Virginia. With its team of project managers, superintendents and support staff, the commercial builder completes tenant interiors and base building projects for some of the regions largest corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations including Freddie Mac, Chemonics International, and General Dynamics. Most recently, Bognet Construction built the offices for Visa International and ManTech International, and has completed multiple projects for the General Services Administration and related federal agencies.
Bognet Construction is committed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects, a standard for “green” building design. Most of the company’s project managers have completed their LEED accreditation — something the owners believe is critical as they move forward. For details visit www.bognet.com.