Gov. Parris N. Glendening and some key legislators say they support using state funds to help replace or rebuild Cole Field House at the University of Maryland College Park, a project estimated to cost at least $60 million.
The governor said yesterday that he would back the use of state funds for a new or rebuilt arena, but that the details of when the project could be completed and how much the state should contribute must be worked out with legislators and university officials.
"We must make some major improvements, whether it's renovation or a new arena," Glendening said. "The only key question is timing and funding."
Were it to win General Assembly approval, the Cole Field House replacement would be the third major sports project taken on by the state in recent years.
This year, the legislature approved spending $200 million in state funds on a new downtown stadium for the Baltimore Ravens and contributing another $70 million to the construction of a Washington Redskins stadium in Prince George's County.
Cole Field House, best known as the home arena of the university's often-high-powered men's basketball team, needs major renovation or replacement, according to university officials.
Cole, which was built in 1955, is the third-oldest arena in the nine-member Atlantic Coast Conference. A new 18,000-seat arena, with more seating and luxury boxes, could generate extra income for the college's debt-ridden athletics program.
"The present facility is one of the oldest in the Atlantic Coast Conference," Miller said. "It's full of asbestos. It's not handicapped- accessible."
NTC But Miller said the project could proceed only if a significant portion of the cost came from private contributors. He also said a new arena would have to be within easy walking distance for students.
Miller and state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat and chairwoman of the Budget & Taxation Committee, said the General Assembly likely would include planning money for the project in the budget that lawmakers will consider in the next three months.
With the project enjoying the strong backing of the Senate president, the governor would be hard- pressed to oppose it and risk losing some of the initiatives he has proposed for the coming legislative session.
Glendening tacitly acknowledged that the Cole Field House project would be part of a bigger legislative puzzle.
Asked how long it would take to get an arena built, Glendening smiled and said: "That depends on how we cut the deal."
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said he knew little about plans to renovate or replace the campus arena. But, the Allegany County Democrat added, he would support such a project if someone puts together "a workable game plan."
"That's the kind of infrastructure that is important to the state," Taylor said. "Stadiums, arenas, field houses, they're all economic engines."
But one key legislator, Del. Howard P. Rawlings, who heads the House Appropriations Committee, said he is not convinced that the state can afford a new arena in College Park.
"I think the money would be better spent on some other areas besides sports arenas," said Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat. "I think priorities are misplaced here. We need to improve faculty salaries and enhance the academic program."
Pub Date: 12/05/96