- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

Maryland is reviewing plans for a $50million facelift for Byrd Stadium that could include 15,000 more seats, luxury boxes and a new field name.

School officials have met with architects regularly about transforming the 53-year-old campus stadium that eventually could increase to 80,000 seats. A new upper deck will ring the lower bowl that may bring the first club seats and corporate suites.

A $10million deal for the field naming rights also is being sought. However, the name will be that of a private donor and not a corporate sponsor. The stadium will remain named for former athlete, coach and university president H.C. “Curley” Byrd.

“It’s going to be awhile [before construction begins], a year or two,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “Once we feel we can support that, then it’s worthwhile doing. I would like to see us get some corporate boxes and suites and club level. We want to do it nice.”



Athletic director Debbie Yow said there is no firm construction timetable following an ongoing feasibility study. “Making it work for another 50 years” was paramount in planning, she said.

Maryland sold out its two home games this season for the first time despite starting 0-2 on the road. The crowds of nearly 52,000 were the seventh and ninth largest in school history and the first time the school drew consecutive 50,000-plus crowds.

The Terps sold a record 28,350 season tickets this season, compared with 12,000 before Friedgen’s arrival two years ago. The Terps allocate 11,000 seats for students, plus visiting team tickets and game-day sales.

Maryland wanted to reach 30,000 in season ticket sales before committing to expansion, but the sellouts have prompted a new look at the issue. Maryland has sold out its Nov.13 nationally televised game against Virginia, and the Nov.1 homecoming against North Carolina also is a probable sellout. Crowds for games against Clemson (Oct.4) and Duke (Oct.11) also could reach capacity.

Friedgen was impressed with the crowds considering the team’s poor start. He said the loud atmosphere was influential in Saturday’s 34-7 rout of West Virginia.

“The crowd was a big factor in the way we played,” Friedgen said. “The atmosphere was what I was expecting it to be every game here at Maryland. I turned to [receivers coach] James Franklin on the sideline and said, ‘This is what I want our stadium to be every game.’

“I told our team Friday night before the West Virginia game, ‘We’re 0-2 and coming home to play The Citadel and we draw 51,000 people. That’s unprecedented. That’s the belief the fans and student body have in you. … Tomorrow is another sellout. You need to come out here and play and show how appreciative you are.’”

Players ran across the field during the pregame introduction to raise their helmets in tribute to the student section. Friedgen singing the school fight song with students after victories has been well received. The Terps are 15-1 at Byrd under Friedgen.

Next season addition of Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC also likely will produce sellouts when those teams play in College Park. Maryland plays Navy in 2005 at M&T; Stadium in Baltimore in what could become a regular series.

“You could conceivably get Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Virginia — an unbelievable schedule,” Friedgen said.

Maryland has experienced growing pains, such as increased traffic congestion after games, and Friedgen said fans are still learning to deal with success.

“I thought the atmosphere [against West Virginia] was like Clemson our first year,” Friedgen said of the 2001 ACC title clincher. “We get that type of excitement and people. They’ve been going to games for so long in a vacuum they forget what a real football game’s all about.”

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