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Re-Imagined Cole Field House Combines Athletics, Medicine Under One Roof

September 15, 2017
So what's $41 million between friends?

At the end of 2014, when the University of Maryland announced plans to transform then-59-year-old Cole Field House into an indoor practice and academic facility, the price tag was announced at $155 million.

But after the first phase of the project was completed during the summer, and Maryland finally became the last team in the Big Ten with an indoor practice facility for its football team, the cost was estimated by the school to be $196 million, a more than 26-percent increase.

So what happened?

"The re-imagined Cole Field House embodies so much of what the University of Maryland has to offer, with athletics, academics, research and innovation under one roof," University of Maryland spokeswoman Katie Lawson said in an emailed response to questions submitted by PressBox. "The world-class athletic facilities will be housed alongside the state-of-the-art Center for Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance, where renowned faculty will fuel breakthroughs in understanding how the brain works that will help student-athletes, veterans and community.

"All of this is done in partnership with University of Maryland, Baltimore. This space will also serve the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where students can brainstorm, pitch and develop their innovations into the next big startup."

In other words, the scope and size of the project expanded. What started as a conceptual design has evolved.

The second phase of the project is scheduled to be completed in 2019. It will include a weight room, offices and meeting rooms, and two outdoor practice fields. And that's just the athletic portion.

The second phase will also include some 40,000 square feet for The Center For Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance, and for the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

"Athletics is the front porch of a university," said Dr. Wallace D. Loh, president of the College Park, Md., campus, at the ribbon cutting to show off the new facility last month. "But what the new Cole Field House will do is a 21st-century porch that brings together not just athletics, but is integrated with neuroscience, research on the brain, brain recovery and larger human health." 

According to a University of Maryland release, the athletic department will pay $19 million of the increased cost, which will cover the change in scope for athletic facilities.

When the Terps officially joined the Big Ten in July 2014, Maryland was known more as a basketball school. But the Big Ten was -- and is -- different, and keeping up with Big Ten football programs such as Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan became a priority in College Park. 

"All you have to do is look around the Big Ten and see what the competition is doing," Bob Vecchione, executive director of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, said at the time. "When you are recruiting young people, they are recruiting a very similar type of athlete, and when the high school student-athlete makes his or her recruiting trips to various institutions within the Big Ten, you can't help but do comparables."

Maryland football head coach DJ Durkin is certainly impressed with his team's new home.

"Just to see the looks on our guys' faces when they walked through was everything," he said at the ribbon cutting. "It's what it's all about."

The university said in June that it has raised $57 million of the $90 million goal for private money it had set in 2014. That includes $25 million from Under Armour founder and Maryland alum Kevin Plank.

"The new Cole Field House, more than a building, a revolution," said a University of Maryland promotional video touting the facility that is voiced by ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt, another alum. "Allowing the University of Maryland to stand proudly as a championship program on the field and as a national leader for the relentless pursuit of science, innovation and sport."

Issue 237: September 2017