At UM, spoils may include Byrd Stadium expansion

Athletic department studies more suites, seats

College Football

January 03, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

The past three years of Maryland football success have also made a number of off-the-field improvements possible in College Park. Since coach Ralph Friedgen arrived, Maryland has received a new scoreboard at Byrd Stadium, a new artificial turf practice facility, a remodeled weight room, a remodeled dining hall and a renovated Gossett Football Team House.

The next big push will be to expand Byrd Stadium, adding both additional seats and luxury suites. Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said Wednesday that the athletic department recently commissioned a feasibility study that will look into how much the school could sell luxury suites for. That would be the first step in getting initial approval from university president C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr.

"That's when we start building a funding formula for potential expansion," Yow said. "We need to put a funding formula in front of [school administrators] that makes sense and talk to them about what we're trying to do and why we're trying to do it. We can't go anywhere unless I get [Mote's] support. I believe I will. It's not a new subject. I've been talking to him about the concept for about 18 months. He's just looking for the numbers."

Maryland had six home games this season, and had more than 50,000 in attendance at each game for the first time in school history. Yow said that helped the athletic department net $6 million this year after expenses.

"If we had averaged 42,000, we wouldn't be talking about expansion, because the need doesn't exist," Yow said. "We could just wait longer to build. But it's happening at mach speed. That's a good thing."

One potential roadblock to expansion is that the school's administration has told Yow it doesn't want to sell the naming rights to the field at Byrd to a corporate sponsor, as it did with Comcast Center, and instead is looking for an individual donor, possibly a Maryland graduate. Naming rights would carry a $10 million price tag.

Friedgen's name has been repeatedly mentioned in connection with the recent string of job openings in the NFL, and Thursday Friedgen said he'd like a raise, but Yow said she doesn't feel Friedgen is making demands or that anything like stadium expansion needs to happen for him to stay. Yow said Friedgen has told her privately he's happy in College Park.

"He says to me, `I'm here, Deb. I appreciate everything that everybody's done. I know we're in this together, and I have no intention of going anywhere,'" Yow said. "There's nothing that I'm aware of that needs to be done to continue to advance the program that isn't being done."

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