About Us

Smith Mountain Lake residents and visitors gathered together on Sept. 19, 2015, to hold hands on land and water as a way to honor the lives of Alison Parker and Adam Ward and encourage the continued healing of Vicki Gardner. View more photos from the event.

Table of Contents


The effort to establish a community center at Smith Mountain Lake dates back more than a decade but was given renewed interest following a tragic shooting at Bridgewater Plaza in August 2015 that took the lives of journalists Adam Ward and Alison Parker.

During that time, the community rallied behind Vicki Gardner, the only survivor of the attack. Gardner, the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce’s long-time executive director, reenergized the vision for a community center here with the hope that something good and enduring would come out of the heartbreaking event.

Initially referred to as Vicki’s Vision, the effort is now known officially as the Smith Mountain Lake Center, Inc., a fully operational non-profit organization made up of a board of 12 directors who meet monthly.

Mission / Vision

Board of Directors

Vicki Gardner, President

John Emery, Vice President

Marty Bowers, Treasurer

Kathy Hodges, Secretary

Greg Beecher

Trish England

Tim Gardner

Jerry Hale

Rev. Troy Keaton

Matt Karris

Laura Moritz

Jack Phillips

Jim Tarantino

Proposed Location

The cavernous, 40,000-square-foot facility already has the infrastructure in place we need, as well as 135 paved parking spaces (expandable to 200-225).

Community Impact and Usage Plans

What long-range impacts will the SML Center project have on our community?

Purchasing the Grand Furniture Outlet building will lead to the following impacts on the SML Community:

  • Bolstered economic growth by helping attract businesses through enhanced cultural and educational opportunities for employees and their families.
  • Availability of short-term office and conference room space. 
  • Availability of cultural, arts, vocational, tutoring and interest-expansion educational opportunities for children and adults—especially the under-served in our community who typically have less access to such opportunities.
  • Improved access to information about lake life at SML for vacationers, visitors, tourists
  • Increased indoor activity options for off-season and inclement weather days.
  • Enhanced community building through resident interactions at events, classes, meetings, exhibits, “hang-out” space.
  • Readily available meeting spaces for civic groups, committees and activity/event planners.
  • Readily available event space for banquets, performances, business and private gatherings and celebrations.
  • Opportunity for those with experience and passion for teaching to continue using their teaching abilities. 
  • Opportunity for both budding and mature local artists, photographers, dancers, thespians and musicians to share and display their talents. 

Primary Spaces the SML Center is Expected to Offer

Plans now call for a three-phase renovation of the Grand Home Furnishings showroom building at Westlake. When completed, the facility is expected to include:

  • Welcome kiosk/ticket desk
  • Visitor information mini-theater/display area
  • Coffee shop and casual gathering lounge (a “hang out” space)
  • Stage with professional lighting and sound systems for concerts, plays
  • Performer “green room”
  • Dedicated rehearsal studio
  • Removable chair seating for audiences of up to 300. 
  • Flat floor space for banquet tables, dance floor, exhibition tables/booths 
  • Catering kitchen
  • Display gallery for hanging art and photography exhibitions
  • Several “Work-Away-From-Home” office spaces and conference rooms
  • Classrooms
  • Restrooms per code
  • Administrative office
  • Covered outdoor event space

How You Can Help

  • Tell a friend about SML Center and encourage them to help make it a reality.
  • Get a group involved: What clubs or other organizations do you belong to that might get behind
  • the SMLC in a concerted way?
  • Volunteer your skills to the effort. Are you a marketer, grant writer, event organizer, public
  • speaker? Consider how you can help and contact us.
  • Make a pledge. Donations large and small are needed to help fund purchase and renovation of The Grand building.
  • Read more
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