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Mark Turgeon, Brenda Frese Welcome Maryland's Plan For Basketball Practice Facility

October 9, 2019
It wasn't a game -- it was just a press conference. But Johnny Holliday called Maryland's Oct. 8 announcement of a basketball performance center one of the best moments in his 41 years around the program. Terps women's head coach Brenda Frese called it a "game-changer." Men's head coach Mark Turgeon raised his arms in celebration when he took the podium.

"Yes!" Turgeon exclaimed to assembled reporters, staff and boosters. "I am so excited. You have no idea."

Maryland Terps 2019: Mark Turgeon (at practice facility announcement)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

The new performance center, which athletic director Damon Evans said will take three years to complete, is slated to include two full-size practice courts and a shared strength and conditioning center that'll be at least four times the size of the current weight room. It'll have new locker rooms for both teams and "state-of-the-art" meeting and office spaces for coaches. Maryland plans to build the new facility on what's currently a hillside next to lot UU and connect the buildings with a tunnel.

"The new basketball performance center delivers on the vision that we set forth for our program," Evans said.

Turgeon has seen such a facility as a necessity for years.

Last season, the Terps had to scramble to find a place to practice during finals week in December. The Xfinity Center's main floor was set up for fall graduation, with the Pavilion in use for dress rehearsals. Maryland was slated to practice in the Armory -- which sits in the middle of campus -- but it was raining and there was a roof leak. 

So half an hour before practice, the Terps moved everything and everyone through the rain to the Eppley Recreation Center. They had to cancel that practice and only had an hour the following day before the building closed down, Turgeon said. Maryland lost its next game to Seton Hall on Dec. 22.

"It's 48 degrees and raining out and we're running in our practice uniforms and our managers are carrying things from this building to that building so we can have a practice," Turgeon recalled. "And we're Maryland basketball. And I was just like, 'I can't do this anymore.'"

Maryland and Boston College are currently the only Power 5 programs without a dedicated basketball practice facility. Xfinity Center, built in 2002, is modern and spacious enough to suffice most of the time, but men's and women's basketball still have to stagger their practice schedules to account for each other and other sports such as volleyball and wrestling.

This certainly isn't a cheap solution -- the project is estimated to cost $36 million, with $19 million already raised before the Oct. 8 official launch of a fundraising campaign. But that's not an extraordinary number in comparison with similar facilities. Michigan's player development center, opened in 2012, cost $23.2 million. Nebraska's Hendricks Training Center cost $18.7 million and opened in 2011. Texas Tech broke ground on a $29 million facility in January.

It's worth noting that this facility will be funded privately, meaning it's not detracting from other university initiatives. But Turgeon knew he had to be patient with the Cole Field House renovations taking place on the other side of campus. He credits New York businessman and prominent Maryland basketball booster Harvey Sanders with taking the lead on the project with both his effort and finances.

When construction is complete, Evans expects benefits to other teams and in other areas. The locker room and sports medicine spaces currently dedicated to men's and women's basketball can go toward other sports (such as wrestling, field hockey and women's lacrosse). Evans also touted the idea of using Xfinity Center for more concerts and events during the year without compromising practice schedules.

The most direct impacts, of course, will still be on the men's and women's basketball programs. A facility like this is a recruiting chip to lure talented players with other options, and it'll serve as home for the players on campus.

"We recruit a lot of gym rats, so just the ability and just having access 24/7 to be able to get in," Frese said.

Turgeon previously coached at Wichita State and Texas A&M when similar facilities were built at those schools, so he's seen the benefits it can have. He knows he won't coach the Terps forever, but believes this building will benefit the program's coaches and players for years to come.

"I'm all-in on this baby," Turgeon said. "We're going to get [the money] raised. The campus is going to be proud of it. We're going to raise every dollar. We're not going to have to borrow money from anybody. We're going to get it done because we're Maryland basketball."

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics