COLLEGE PARK – The University of Maryland’s Cole Field House ends a nearly 50-year run when the last men’s basketball game is played there Sunday, with games moving to the new state-of-the-art Comcast Center this fall.
Ceremony will mark the occasion Sunday. The athletic department will eventually move out of Cole and the wooden floor will be ripped up and sold. After that, it’s anybody’s guess what happens to the storied field house.
“You’re in the dark as much as we are,” said university spokesman George Cathcart, when asked about the future of Cole.
“Ultimately, there will be a facilities committee that will decide,” Cathcart said. When the committee will be formed and who will be on it has not been determined, he said.
Some of Cole’s office space will be used temporarily by campus departments that are strapped for space, Cathcart said. Other potential uses include a venue for a 2012 Olympics bid and a stop for a Metro line that is proposed to run through campus.
“We haven’t ruled it out,” said Lorenzo Bryant, project manager for the Maryland Transit Authority. But Cole as a Metro stop hasn’t been formally discussed either, he said.
Dan Knise, president of Washington DC 2012, said Cole has been suggested as a site for Olympic team handball competitions. But nothing will be decided until the region’s bid is either turned down or accepted by the U.S. Olympic Committee this fall, said Curt Callahan, assistant athletic director of operations.
“The building’s not going anywhere,” at least not in the near future, Callahan said.
Other fans hope Cole will stay right where it’s been.
Jack Zane was a student when Cole opened in 1955 and has worked in the building since 1969. Now the director of the Walk of Fame, an exhibit that will commemorate campus athletes, he is convinced there are uses for Cole yet.
“Cole is more than a basketball court,” said Zane, who served as director of ticket operations at the field house for almost 15 years.
“I’d like to see the office space utilized and keep the place like it is,” Zane said. “It can be used like it is now, except for the basketball.”
Some offices and programs in the building, such as ROTC and occasional Student Entertainment Events productions, might stay for now, but the entire athletic department will leave in the fall, said David Haglund, an associate athletics director.
The floor won’t stay. It has been sanded so many times it’s not worth keeping, Zane said. The boards will be pulled up, sold on $45 to $275 plaques to sentimental fans and replaced with a new floor, he said.
Whether the court will continue to host games and practices for other teams has not been decided.
Cole’s basketball court has hosted commencements, concerts, wrestling tournaments, Elvis Presley and Bob Hope performances and NCAA Final Four games. The building has been home to Terrapin boxing, basketball, track, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling.
The Capital Bullets, now the Washington Wizards, played their NBA games at Cole in the 1970s while the Capital Centre was being built. In 1972, the first sporting event in history between the United States and China, a ping-pong match, was played in Cole.
The field house has hosted U.S. presidents and was the site of the 1966 NCAA championship that pitted a black starting five for Texas Western against the University of Kentucky’s all-white team — helping to force Southern colleges to desegregate in order to keep their competitive edge.
Kevin Messenger, the athletic department’s associate director of media relations, said that during the final men’s basketball game at Cole on Sunday, players will hand the ball to students in a symbolic ceremony ending the court’s legacy.
“It symbolizes that when we’re through with Cole, we’ll give it back to campus and the students,” Messenger said.
Many students hope Cole is treated well.
Juan Dixon, a senior star on the Terrapin basketball team, said Cole is “a special place” on campus.
“Everybody’s become used to the place,” Zane said. “There’s just no other building that has the atmosphere we have here.
“I’d hate to see the building go.” — Distributed by Capital News Service.