Shortly before Maryland football Coach DJ Durkin arrived at the first unveiling of the newly renovated Cole Field House on Wednesday, he spotted former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams exiting his car near the door of the building. The two men exchanged pleasantries before walking in together, an unexpected but fitting entrance that became a cornerstone of Durkin’s speech to commemorate the completion of the first phase of the $155 million project.
“My memories of Cole Field House is Coach Williams on the sideline, just sweating everywhere, yelling at players, officials, anyone here, and to walk into this building with him . . . was pretty special. Really special,” Durkin told a crowd of about 500 boosters and supporters, his voice echoing to the rafters above the sparkling new indoor football field. The field was completed last month and unveiled to the public Wednesday.
Maryland is the last football program in the Big Ten to have an indoor practice field, but that is all that the building holds at this point.
The leaders of the project spent much of Wednesday emphasizing what the next phase will bring, including the Center of Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance; a clinical treatment center; and space for the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. That portion of the project — which also will include new offices as well as a new weight room and locker room for the football team — is expected to be finished within the next three years.
“It goes much further than” football, Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said. “This is a game-changer for our university.”
Williams became a legendary figure as a coach in this historic, 61-year-old building, but as the senior managing director for alumni relations and athletic development, he also was credited Wednesday by Durkin for helping to raise funds to pull the building out of dormancy and help make it both the Maryland football program’s new home and a state of the art facility for sports medicine and entrepreneurship.
The project, which began construction in December 2015 and has been buoyed by a $25 million pledge from Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, has raised roughly two-thirds of its $90 million fundraising goal and counts about 140 high-level donors, according to university President Wallace Loh. The first phase cost about $45 million.
“People really resonate emotionally with this building and what has happened here. So that is why we preserved the exterior,” Loh said. “The history and culture is still in the air. But inside you have a 21st-century facility.”
While Plank was not in attendance Wednesday, he garnered praise from Loh for his continued “moral support” and for “getting the ball rolling” on the facility with his $25 million donation to the project, which has required the most lucrative private fundraising effort in the school’s history. Loh also addressed Under Armour’s announcement Tuesday of a second-quarter loss and the cutting of 2 percent of the company’s workforce, but he didn’t specify whether that reduction will have any impact on the school.
“Things go up and down. He’s a Terp. He perseveres,” Loh said of Plank. “Setbacks are simply the platform of the next success.”
Loh said he will “remain in campaign mode” as the school tries to raise roughly another $30 million to pay off the remaining part of the project, but for now the football team will have an indoor home for the first time in its history. Aside from bolstering recruiting for Durkin and his staff, the first phase of the project will pay immediate dividends. Durkin took his players on a tour of the building for the first time last week.
“There was rumors of the indoor facility since me coming since my freshman year,” senior defensive tackle Cavon Walker said. “We always needed that. It always been preached about coming. Now that it’s here, it gave us hope for the more change that is about to come.”
The football team will continue to be headquartered this season in its original home, the Gossett Team House, while it waits for the rest of the facility to be constructed, but Durkin plans to use the indoor field each day for a walk-through before his team practices outdoors during camp.
The indoor practice field will bring the Terrapins temporarily up to speed in the rest of the Big Ten while continuing to give Durkin a valuable recruiting tool.
“The kids in our area understand now they’re going to get the best of the best here. Education-wise, facility-wise, on the field, they’re going to get the best of the best,” Durkin said. “You don’t have to go anywhere else in order to get all you hope and dream about your college experience.”