By Keith Meisel, Baltimore Sun Media Group
8:09 PM EDT, May 12, 2014
A history of more than 40 years of hosting intercollegiate athletic events, including the regionals of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, as well as high school state championships will begin its final chapter on the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
UMBC officials announced Monday night during the school's annual meeting with representatives of the communities outside the southwest Baltimore County school that the Retriever Activities Center that was the home of the men's and women's basketball teams as well as volleyball will be replaced.
The new events and convocation center that will host community events and be the new home for the Retrievers' sports teams is expected to open sometime in the 2017-2018 school year, according to Joe Rexing, the director of facilities management at the school.
The $85-million facility will have 5,000 permanent seats, 1,000 more than the current Retriever Activities Center (RAC). It will be a multi-use space which will allow for greater flexibility than currently available.
"It will be able to host our basketball and volleyball games that many of our neighborhood folks like to enjoy," Rexing said. "But it will play host to other events that will be extended to the community."
Those events include speakers' series, convocations, graduation ceremonies and arts events, Rexing said.
The arena will be on campus near the present site of the UMBC Stadium and baseball's Alumni Field and softball stadium.
The news follows the fall, 2013 opening of the SECU Arena (5,200 capacity) on the campus of Towson University and renovations to Reitz Arena (2,100 capacity) on the campus of Loyola University Maryland.
The RAC opened in 1973 as the UMBC Fieldhouse and served as the site of numerous high school basketball conference and state championship tournaments, among other activities.
In 1979, UMBC defeated visiting Virginia Union in the South Atlantic Regional Tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals.
The Retrievers then lost, 65-62, to a Cheyney State coached by future Hall of Fame Coach John Chaney. More than 3,600 fans witnessed the loss to the defending Division II national champions, setting an attendance record for the UMBC facility that stood until 2004.
Future NBA stars including Marvin Webster (Seattle Supersonics), J.J. Barea (Dallas Mavericks), Brian Grant (Miami Heat), Jerome Kersey (Portland Trailblazers) and Malik Rose (San Antonio Spurs) played on the floor as collegians.
Visiting high school standouts who took the floor included DeMatha Catholic's Hawkeye Whitney (Kansas City Kings), Derek Whittenberg (drafted by Phoenix Suns) and Sidney Lowe (drafted by Chicago Bulls).
Lauren Loricchio of Baltimore Sun Media Group contributed to this story.