Academic building to get money before basketball arena at UM 'A matter of principle,' university head says

March 14, 1997|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

The president of the University of Maryland College Park appears to have brokered a deal to delay spending state money to replace an aging campus basketball arena for a year so that he can hasten the construction of a new chemistry building.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat who has been a frequent university ally, has been among the legislators driving the state to spend $35 million toward a new $80 million Cole Field House.

Yet, William E. Kirwan, the university's president, sought "fast-track" approval of a $25 million annex for undergraduate instruction in chemistry before tax dollars were spent on the basketball arena.

"It was a matter of principle that the academic priorities had to be met first," Kirwan said last night.

Kirwan pushed hard with key state senators and delegates, associates said, but was particularly forceful with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his budget aides about the need to replace 50-year-old science facilities first.

"There is a lot of sensitivity to keeping the focus on academics" at the College Park campus, said Del. James C. Rosapepe, a Democrat whose district includes the university. Kirwan "was fighting for his constituents and for the right cause," Rosapepe said.

All state-funded construction projects first receive planning money and in subsequent years receive construction money.

Under the new plan, the university will receive seed money for planning the chemistry building in 1999, a year ahead of schedule, and more than $20 million in 2001 instead of 2002. State spending for construction of the basketball arena will be delayed a year until 2002.

Kirwan said that the university would spend private and auxiliary campus dollars on the field house so that its construction schedule would not be appreciably set back.

University officials thought last summer they had received promises that the chemistry building project would be started in 1999. When money was allocated instead for a new Cole Field House, some faculty members and students criticized administrators and state officials for misplaced priorities.

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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