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.
Recently, Weyer's Floor Service 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 was organized by former University of Maryland student, basketball player and assistant basketball coach Joe Harrington via the Internet. Fans have bought nearly all of the natural wood floor at $60 per square foot, with the majority of the proceeds going to the university's athletic department.
"It's mostly University of Maryland alumni and supporters of the athletic department and the basketball team," Harrington said of the folks buying pieces of the old floor. "When they [the University of Maryland 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."
"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," he 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 who 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, the Comcast Center, was laid with air nailers and staple guns. The Cole floor cost $50,000 to build in 1954. The Comcast floor cost twice as much.
"I'm proud of the fact that, 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 out of 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, who has watched Weyer's crew pull the boards apart. "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 the 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 resilience and bounce."