Maryland considers options on Cole Committees expected to endorse new arena

November 14, 1997|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Two advisory committees at the University of Maryland agreed yesterday morning on a proposal to president William E. Kirwan on the future of Cole Field House.

Although the committees did not disclose their report, several indicators as well as one campus source said the group is strongly leaning toward building a $90 million, 17,000-seat arena on a hilltop area on the north side of campus to replace the 42-year-old basketball facility.

"We did have a meeting and have made a recommendation," said Charles Wellford, a criminal justice professor who is the chairman of the executive committee on select facilities. "But we agreed as a group not to release any information until president Kirwan receives the report."

It has been a hot debate in College Park over the years, with Cole maintaining one of the most renowned basketball atmospheres but becoming outdated with no air conditioning, limited office space and a leaky roof.

Besides a new arena, the other option placed before the two committees, which were composed of school employees and outside advisers, would be to renovate Cole and expand its seating capacity. Last year, the Terrapin men's basketball team sold out all eight of its Atlantic Coast Conference home games and officials expect the same this year.

However, the report prepared by the Maryland Stadium Authority estimates that renovation would cost almost as much as building a new arena.

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow was in Minneapolis for tonight's men's basketball game and could not be reached for comment.

In August, Yow said that she and coach Gary Williams both were in favor of a new facility, which she anticipated then would cost $80 million. But Kirwan has made it known that he will not make a new arena a higher priority than other projects.

Maryland would become the fourth ACC school to build or be in the process of funding a new basketball site.

"I don't think of us trying to keep up with the Joneses," Yow said in August. "If that were the case, we would be looking at a 22,000-seat arena to compete with the Smith Center [at North Carolina]. What we are trying to do is what is best for Maryland."

One of the main objections to renovation is that it would put the men's and women's basketball teams in a state of flux with a temporary home arena and practice site for nearly two years, which could hinder recruiting.

Representatives for US Airways Arena in Landover and the new MCI Center in downtown Washington have said it is unlikely that there would be enough open dates to accommodate the Terps.

Another possible temporary facility mentioned is the Baltimore Arena, a 13,000-seat venue for basketball that is about 40 minutes from campus. Representatives of the Baltimore Arena did not return phone calls yesterday.

Once the university approves one of the plans, funding has to be approved by the state legislature.Planning for a new arena started 11 months ago when Gov. Parris N. Glendening proposed spending $1.2 million to design the facility and said the state expected to contribute $35 million.

If a new arena is approved, the most popular site is on the north end of campus near the Metzerott Road and University Boulevard intersection. The area is primarily undeveloped, with auxiliary parking lots and storage for the facilities department there now.

Like Cole, the new facility would be easily accessible to students, with the high-rise dormitories within a short walk.

Pub Date: 11/14/97

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