Plans to expand Byrd Stadium to seat 60,000-65,000 people, including the possibility of sky-suite type boxes for big contributors and corporations, are being drawn up by the University of Maryland's planning and development office.
Athletic Director Dick Dull said he has commissioned Al Ristan, a university planner, to prepare the plans and artist's renderings to be ready if football season tickets reach a base of 20,000.
The stadium now has 45,000 seats. An expansion to 65,000 would make Byrd the largest stadium in the university's area; RFK Stadium holds 55,045 and Baltimore's Memorial Stadium 60,586.
Paid season ticket sales are up 35 percent over last season, from 8,500 to 11,500, according to Bob Stumpff, an assistant athletic director. The Terrapin Club, which raised $1.5 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, gives 3,500 complimentary season tickets to its contributors. Thus, there is a base of 15,000 season tickets, up 25 percent from a year ago.
Any expansion would also include installation of permanent lights for night football.
The Terrapins' Sept. 17 game against West Virginia is the first night game in Byrd Stadium. Portable lights are being installed for national television.
The cost of the stadium expansion, likely to be done in two stages, has not been determined and the method of paying has not been discussed.
So far the only cost is the athletic department paying one-fifth of Ristan's salary, Dull said.
"It's easy to do the planning; that's the first thing. Then you have to come up with the money.
"No one's ever planned or done anything (about expanding Byrd Stadium). We're looking five to seven years from now.
"We're not going to go into a (fund-raising) campaign until we have stability in (ticket) sales.
"But if we have another year or two years of good crowds, I think we'll need it."
Ristan said he is leaning toward adding a second deck to the north side of the stadium in the first phase of expansion, bringing permanent seating to about 55,000.
In the second phase, the press-box area would be enlarged, perhaps including a floor of sky suites, and the building may be designed to house nonathletic department activities when it is not in use for football.
Ristan said it will take at least two months to produce detailed plans, so he can begin pricing the project. He said the first stage of expansion could be ready for the 1985 season opener against Penn State.
"We could move quickly enough to get it built (by then)," Dull said, "but to move quickly enough to get it paid for, I don't know."
Although Maryland was ranked No. 1 nationally 30 years ago, the football program did not recover financially until last year from a period when the Terrapins won only nine of 52 games from 1967 to 1971. Even an 11-0 regular-season record in 1976 and Cotton Bowl trip under then-coach Jerry Claiborne did not bring sustained ticket sales.
When Bobby Ross brought a pro-style game to College Park and attendance figures began to improve, Maryland officials began thinking seriously about the need to expand the stadium. Last year, attendance was up 8,225 per game compared to Claiborne's final season, according to the university.
The gains in fund-raising almost parallel those in ticket sales. In a year, the number of Diamondback, or $1,200 annual contributors, has increased from 454 to 534.
The number of Gold ($600) contributors has increased from 376 to 472, according to Tom Fields, the athletic department's fund-raiser.
"We've had the greatest degree of enthusiasm we've had here in a long time," Fields said.