The University of Maryland plans to begin construction of an $8 million upper deck and press box in Byrd Stadium after the 1986 season, Athletic Director Dick Dull said yesterday. The project would add 8,000 seats to the 45,000-seat stadium and is expected to be completed by the 1988 season.
Dull also said the university has delayed plans to put permanent lights in the stadium in time for the beginning of the 1985 season because "the price came in too high." Maryland had planned to borrow construction money interest-free from the Atlantic Coast Conference and repay it over two years. Now, Dull said he is looking at alternative sources of finance.
He said the plans for the upper deck and press box are "beyond the preliminary stages, but we don't have many details yet."
The university will sell revenue bonds, authorized in 1984 by the legislature, to finance the upper deck, the first of what Dull says is a four-phase project to modernize and expand the stadium, which opened in 1950. Payments for principle and interest are projected to cost the athletic department $800,000 annually for 30 years, he said.
As a result, Maryland will set aside the first $800,000 of its budget annually to pay off that debt. "We either have to raise more money through television or gate receipts, or tailor the program back," he said. "I'm convinced the income will be there because of the direction the football program is going under Bobby Ross."
Maryland's annual budget is approximately $8 million, and Dull said he expects net football receipts -- after paying guarantees to visiting teams and receiving guarantees when Maryland is on the road -- to be about $2 million next season, which would be a record high at College Park.
He said he already has put about $700,000 in a "set-aside" fund, including about $350,000-$400,000 from student fees.
There are no dates projected for the other three phases of the stadium project, which would increase the capacity of the stadium to 65,000, and funds to begin construction likely would have to come from gate receipts, he said. The last three phases are projected to cost $22 million.
Phase II would include an upper deck on the opposite side of Byrd Stadium from the press box, adding another 8,000 seats; Phase III would include demolishing the current offices and locker rooms in Byrd Stadium and building new ones; Phase IV would include a 4,000-seat upper deck in the end zone.
"The upper deck and press box (in Phase I) are realistic," Dull said. "I don't see a realistic chance on the other three right now."
Maryland officials had planned to start putting in the lights within a month. But consideration for approval of the project was withdrawn from the recent agenda of the State Board of Public Works.
Projections for the cost of the lights had been $350,000-$400,000. But, Dull said the final price would have been $650,000. "It was too much to finance over a two-year period," Dull said.
He said the lighting system could be financed through a university-funded construction program in which a user's fee, or interest, of six percent is charged. Approval must be obtained from College Park Chancellor John Slaughter, University President John Toll and the Board of Regents.
Last summer's Supreme Court decision deregulating NCAA controls over televising college football games and deflating the value of rights fees put the addition of permanent lights in new perspective, Dull said. "It's not as profitable to play night football," he said. "If we had the old pre-Supreme Court rights fees, with our exposure, I could have paid for it in two years."