More than 50 years ago, Larry Weyer's father and his staff nailed down the 21,852-square-foot wooden floor in the University of Maryland's Cole Field House by hand.
Now, Weyer's Floor Service has pulled up that same floor to sell pieces to University of Maryland's alumni and basketball aficionados nostalgic for the longtime home of Terrapin basketball.
The sale, which is being organized by former U-Md. student, basketball player and assistant basketball coach Joe Harrington via the Internet at www.colefieldhouse.com, is nearly completed.
Fans have bought nearly all the natural wood floor at $60 per square foot, with the majority of the proceeds going to the university's Athletic Department and a portion going to Harrington and the Carter Group in Laurel, which is fielding the orders.
"It's mostly University of Maryland alumni and supporters of the Athletic Department and the basketball team," Harrington said. "When [the U-Md. basketball team] won the national championship and went undefeated in Cole," interest began to rise.
Basketball pep band director L. Richmond Sparks's wife bought him a 2-by-2 section of the floor where he stood to direct the band, Harrington said. Another booster bought a piece of the visitors' coaching box to use as the floor in her closet, and other people called asking to buy a piece of the floor from where they held season tickets.
"It's very personal," Harrington said. "There's a lot of sentiment associated with this floor."
Other schools with top-ranked basketball programs such as Indiana, Duke and Purdue had similar floor sales when they opened new basketball arenas, he said.
The most expensive pieces of the floor have not been sold. The large painted logos -- such as the base line "Maryland" lettering and the state flag -- and pieces of wood from outside the basketball court are still for sale. Harrington plans to put the painted flag -- which is about 7-by-17 -- on sale at online auctioneer eBay. Bidding will start at $7,000 to $8,000.
Another central piece of floor will be for sale, but only as a replica. The big center circle M logo will be used in the Comcast Center's Walk of Fame, but two reproductions will be for sale.
Also for sale are commemorative plaques displaying a piece of the Cole wood with photos of the basketball team or head basketball coach Gary Williams, which cost $125 to $295.
"Cole Field House is special to thousands of people who have graduated from that building, and it's special to the millions of fans who have watched games in here," Harrington said. "Performers from Elvis to Bob Hope performed there. The last person to speak in Cole was the president of the United Nations. . . . There have just been so many things that have happened in this building, thousands of those whom have not only taken exams here but also graduated here."
The original floor was put together by hand with wide flat nails. The floor that Weyer's company built last year to replace Cole in the university's new basketball arena -- Comcast Center -- was laid with air nailers and staple guns. The Cole floor cost $50,000 to build in 1954. The new floor cost twice as much.
"I'm proud of the fact that actually, other than University of Maryland personnel, no one has worked on Cole other than my family," said Weyer, who kept one of the nails he pulled from the floor for his own nostalgic reasons. "A little bit of family tradition makes it more than normal business."
Since working on Cole, the Weyer family business has grown from three employees to 30. Weyer's father, Lawrence Weyer Sr., started the company in the early 1950s when he began crafting floors out of their home in Silver Spring.
Larry Weyer took over the company from his father in 1971 or 1972 and incorporated it in 1974. Now, Weyer and his 30 employees manufacture and lay several million dollars' worth of floors each year and work out of a plant in Odenton, near Fort Meade. Pulling up the floor has been painstaking work.
"It's an old floor, and over the years the refinishing solution has gone between the boards," said Harrington. "They cut every seam with a razor and then pull the nails out, and the floor is brittle. You have to be careful taking it up."
The floor in Comcast Center will probably be a lot easier to pull up, if there's ever an occasion to, Weyer said. It was put down in complete sections, not piece by piece like the Cole floor, with a special pad underneath.
"Floors are designed a lot more by engineers than floor people," Weyer said. "It's all about biomechanics, ball resilence and bounce."