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The Weiss Pavilion project is part of the construction currently underway on the east edge of campus.

Despite graduating from Wharton in 1965, George Weiss never really left Penn.

A generous benefactor of the University and many charitable projects, the charter trustee has stayed intimately involved in the school's affairs. His more than $60 million of donations to the University has already garnered two institutions bearing his name: the Weiss Tech House and the Weiss Center for International Financial Research at Wharton.

His most recent altruistic endeavor will soon yield a third facility in his name and will cement his prominent role in the legacy of the University. Arguably the campus' most historic landmark, Franklin Field will begin to share its illustrious history with Weiss when the groundbreaking of the George A. Weiss Pavilion construction project takes place today.

"He's one of the longest standing and really most revered trustees, who [also] happens to be a supporter of athletics," Penn Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky said of Weiss, who is also on the committee of Athletic Overseers.

"He is very deserving of having his name on the side of Franklin Field because he really has been one of Penn's most valuable citizens."

Development of Weiss Pavilion has been in the planning stages for more than six years and the initial stages of construction began Jan. 19, 2009. Although approximately 20 percent of the project has already been completed - most of which has involved the excavation of more than 20 feet of fill below what used to be the north-side concourse - the ceremonial ground-breaking tonight will formally mark the beginning of construction.

The event, which will take place outside of the Palestra in the area overlooking the construction, is closed to both media and the general public. It was planned in conjunction with the June Trustees meetings in order to conveniently update them on the project as well as recognize and honor Weiss.

Representatives from Crawford Architects --- the firm hired to design the project -- will be on hand to point out different elements of the construction so far and to explain various details using rendered images of the finished product.

The $26.9 million project will encompass the entire north side of Franklin Field and will include an intercollegiate strength and conditioning center for varsity athletes, a recreational facility for the rest of the Penn community and a revamped concourse and retail area. It is the largest renovation to Franklin Field since the second tier was added in 1925.

Weiss Pavilion is the second step in the Penn Connects initiative and will be the main avenue between the core of the campus and Penn Park.

"Planning Penn Park through Penn Connects, people recognized that it's a long walk that people are going to traverse between 33rd [Street] and the park, and there is a real opportunity to enliven that walk," University architect David Hollenberg said.

Michael Diorka, the associate director of athletics and recreation, noted that the athletes' new facility will more than quadruple their training capacity in terms of quality and quantity of facilities.

He added that this would not only improve their performance but also help coaches with recruiting.

The expected time of completion on Weiss Pavilion is Spring 2010, with the development staff hoping to have a fully operational facility before next year's Penn Relays.

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