Terps' old Byrd gets new wings First phase of stadium's renovation nearly done

July 23, 1991|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- Andy Geiger stood in the middle of what soon will be the mega-press box at Byrd Stadium. To the left sat buckets of joint compound, to the right, thick blankets of pink insulation. Construction dust was everywhere.

Geiger looked beyond the mess and into the future.

"When we are finished, there won't be a better football [stadium] in the conference," said Geiger, the University of Maryland's athletic director. "This will be absolutely fabulous."

It has been a few decades since superlatives were used to describe the Terrapins' venerable football bowl. But, yesterday, Geiger's enthusiasm seemed about right.

With university and construction officials, Geiger escorted the media on a tour of the nearly completed first phase of renovations at Byrd Stadium. The $10 million project is expected to be done when the Terrapins open their season Sept. 7 against Virginia.

It's extensive. The old press box is gone, replaced by a five-story palace where media will work alongside university fund-raisers. The building includes meeting rooms, kitchens and 412 luxury seats for which Terps fans will pay $10,000 to reserve their places for the next 10 seasons.

Concessions and rest rooms have been added and improved behind the press box. Also, the 41-year-old stadium's main concrete seating area has been refurbished and crumbling sections repaired.

The renovations began last October, the day after the Terps' final home game of last season. Geiger said early indications are that they already have improved life for coach Joe Krivak and his players.

"It's helped in terms of confidence," Geiger said. "The coaches feel they have our backing. In recruiting, it's also paid off. It's neat. For the first time, the coaches have something to show other than promises."

These renovations are the beginning of an extensive series of improvements planned over five years. The next phase -- a state-of-the-art football building, with amenities for players and coaches -- should be completed for the start of the 1992 season. Deep into the Terps future, there are plans to complete improvements to the concourse and to build an upper deck above the north grandstand, a move that would increase Byrd's permanent seating by about 14,000, to a new capacity of 48,500.

All told, the planned improvements are expected to cost roughly $30 million, money that athletic department officials are working creatively to raise.

Since launching its building-fund drive two years ago, the athletic department has raised about $9.6 million and qualified for another $5 million in state matching funds.

Geiger has other plans for pumping dollars into building renovations. Pay attention to this year's Terps ticket prices. In virtually every case, they will be higher by $2.

Geiger calls the price increase a "surcharge" and says the money raised -- perhaps $400,000 this year -- will go into the department's building fund, where it will help the athletic department qualify for more state money.

With the surcharge, Terps football tickets will be as follows: $19 for the Virginia, Syracuse and Duke games, $22 for West Virginia, $24 for Penn State at Memorial Stadium (Nov. 9).

Geiger said he expected some Terps fans "might be critical" of the price hike. Still, he said this was a good plan.

"It's a way for the public to participate," the athletic director said.

If the luxury seats sell well, the athletic department will have another way to pay bills. Life in the luxury lane does not come cheaply.

To be eligible to rent one, the prospective customer must donate $1,200 a year to the Terrapins sports booster club. After that, the cost is $1,000 a year for a minimum of 10 years, plus the cost of individual game tickets.

Although the seats haven't even been bolted in place yet, the athletic department has taken reservations on about 120, many being sold to corporations.

Mickey Kovach, executive director of the capital campaign for the athletic department, said he was heartened by sales so far.

"Basically, we're approaching it from a philosophical standpoint," Kovach said. "This is not so much, 'Buy tickets.' It's, 'Help support the program.' "

At the luxury level, life will be comfortable and climate-controlled. Heaters will blow warm air on fans on frigid football Saturdays. Care for a celery stalk? Ask the waiters and waitresses who will circulate through the upscale area, delivering munchies.

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