- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2002

Jammed and jubilant, smothering and suspenseful, the Maryland Terrapins bowed out of Cole Field House last night with a well-deserved curtain call.
Maryland bid the hanger-like arena farewell after 47 seasons and 637 games with a 112-92 victory over Virginia. The floor, which has been sanded so often that its nail heads have disappeared, soon will be sold, but Cole will remain indefinitely as office space and an alternate sporting venue. Indeed, the Maryland high school state semifinals begin Thursday.
The 14,500 faithful, however, will have to move nearly a half-mile away next fall to Comcast Center, which offers modern amenities for 17,100. Cole was considered the second-best arena in the nation behind only Madison Square Garden when it opened. Now it's a dark landmark that joins Capital Centre on Washington's old sports landscape.
But not without a farewell party that saw the stands filled before warmups. Some fans said it resembled a wake for a favorite old uncle bittersweet with a lot of good memories. There may not have been a field to rip up for memories, but ushers discovered plenty of loose seat bolts after the previous game from fans who may have been readying themselves for a quick exit with a wooden souvenir.
After all, those seats were expensive for some. Tickets went for $1,700 on EBay.com, although it wasn't a celebrity crowd. Many of those in the stands were longtime fans and former players and coaches. Coach Lefty Driesell didn't make it, but Terps coach Bud Millikan brought his family to see Cole's finale. He coached its 1955 opener.
"You can't be sad about this," said Millikan, who coached Maryland from 1951 to '67. "I just thought about all the fine young men that played for the University of Maryland when I was coaching here. I had some great times and some tough times in this building. God willing, I'll be there for the first game at Comcast Center."
Fans began lining up more than 30 minutes before the large white doors opened for the final time. It was nearly two hours before tipoff, and fans rubbed Testudo's metal nose for luck, a tradition for students heading to an exam.
Karl Walston was first in line after a long trip from Jupiter, Fla. The 1964 Maryland graduate kept his season tickets even though he only attends a few games a year. There were always friends and family that would take the others. But not the last game. Walston and nearly 100 others burst through the doors in the opening moments to relish a long last look at an old friend.
After all, there were pictures to take. The arena was illuminated by the steady flow of snap shots and the cameras rarely faced the floor. Fans took pictures of those seated next to them for many years. Chances are they will be split up at the new arena, and this was the last time they would be together, much like a senior class readying for graduation.
"It won't be the same," said Walston, who saw his first game in 1958 as a high school senior, "but I'm sure it will be a great facility next year."
Tony Haramis has missed few games in nearly 20 years. He even bought season tickets once graduation no longer let him sit in the student section after 1988. Haramis wanted a last look at his playground of youth. He wore a Terps T-shirt to offset the heat caused by a warm evening outside and a full house inside. Long-time fans know Cole gets sweaty even when it's snowing.
"I'll miss the heat," Haramis said. "I'm glad to go to a new stadium, but I'm disappointed to be leaving here."
Robert Foxwell is a relative newcomer to Cole. The University of Delaware graduate started coming last year when a friend offered him floor seats. Funny how loyalty comes quickly when you're seated a few feet from the basket.
"I'm a big Terp fan now," Foxwell said.
But the husbands and wives seated together weren't limited to the stands. Andy and Monica Zink of Olney are on the stats crew. Andy started as a junior in 1983, with Monica following five years later. Andy joked he didn't put in a good word for her.
"Andy was already working the games, and since we were dating, I used to come to the games with him," Monica said. "My sophomore year, they had an opening, and I got the job."
Andy said they only earn $25 game stipends, but "we do it for the love of the game, for the love of Maryland basketball."
Monica Zink wore waterproof mascara, knowing she would cry when the band played "Amen" and postgame ceremonies honored many past and present legends. She wasn't alone.

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