- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

As senior associate athletic director for business Larry Leckonby discussed Maryland’s plans for expanding Byrd Stadium yesterday, he mentioned the possibility work on the earliest phase could be done in time for the 2009 season.

“Just around the corner,” coach Ralph Friedgen said.

Friedgen and the Terrapins took one step closer to that future yesterday as the athletic department unveiled renderings for the $50.8 million project while also hinting at possibilities of future expansion that could include an 8,000-seat upper deck in the west end zone.

Images released yesterday depict Tyser Tower filled with luxury suites and mezzanine seating that stretches 422 feet on the south side of the stadium, up from the current 154 feet. Officials also said there will be 64 luxury suites — most costing between $40,000 and $50,000 annually — and that 10 already have been sold.

The second, third and fourth levels will contain luxury seating, while the fifth floor of the expanded Tyser will contain work areas for media, coaches and operations staff.

“We’re ahead of schedule,” athletic director Debbie Yow said. “We did not believe at this point in time without any printed material that we would be able to sell 10 suites. To be candid, if we sell 50 we’ll be able to meet our financial goals.”

Another change will be a video board on the stadium’s west end to complement one situated atop the football team house. It is expected to be installed in time for next season.

The project, funded by a $35 million loan the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents approved in June and the 25-year, $20 million field naming rights deal with Chevy Chase Bank, is expected to finish no later than the start of the 2010 season.

Design work will be completed in November, and construction could begin shortly after Maryland’s Nov. 10 home finale. It is anticipated the expansion will add 2,500 seats to the capacity at Byrd, which temporary bleachers boosted to 51,500 in recent seasons.

Future plans — which Yow said are not yet funded and cannot begin until private support is identified — call for the lowering of the playing field, a move that will allow Maryland to reclaim about 3,000 obstructed-view seats and perhaps add an extra row of seating. Maryland also plans to replace its grass playing surface with field turf.

Yow hopes to make other changes, including the installation of railings to improve fan safety, the conversion of Byrd’s second deck into a suite level, added restrooms and concession stands, painting the stadium’s Carolina blue roofs red and the expansion of the football team house.

The most ambitious long-term plan is the construction of an upper deck in the west end zone, which meshes with the dreams Friedgen had for the stadium when he first arrived before the 2001 season.

“I think that’s kind of the vision I had, and they did a wonderful job,” Friedgen said. “I know how this is going to help us in a lot of areas — recruiting and establishing a football program, which the goal of mine is to be a perennial top-10, top-20 team.”

Notes — Friedgen reiterated Jordan Steffy remains his No. 1 quarterback as the Terps enter the final week of spring drills. “They’ve all shown improvement,” he said. “Right now I would say Jordan Steffy has a slight lead, but [Josh] Portis and [Chris] Turner are very close.” …

Cornerback Richard Taylor, who injured his left knee two weeks ago, will undergo an arthroscopic exam to determine the extent of the damage. Friedgen said he was unsure whether Taylor has an ACL tear, which likely would cost him most if not all of next season. …

Friedgen said he hoped safeties J.J. Justice and Christian Varner would be available for Saturday’s spring game. Both were injured last week.

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