COLLEGE PARK -- Expansion of Byrd Stadium is set to begin in December, but athletic department officials at Maryland yesterday revealed a grand plan that would ultimately swell stadium capacity to about 60,000 and include other changes intended to lure the nation's top talent and give the entire program a facelift.
The first phase of expansion - scheduled to be completed by August 2010 - includes 64 swanky suites with flat-screen televisions, food services, and indoor and outdoor seating. Maryland can't move forward with its other plans, though, until at least 50 of the luxury suites have been sold.
"We will not seek approval to move on to the other phases until we've sold the new suites in the Tyser Tower expansion," said director of athletics Debbie Yow. "That is job No. 1 for us. Clearly our entire development staff is focused on selling those suites. Once that is done, then we can move to the next phase. There will be something for everyone in the overall expansion, in the vision for what Byrd Stadium can be."
With the expected revenue from the suites, Maryland can then implement other changes, such as new restrooms and concessions, and start bigger projects such as lowering the field. That would enable the 3,000 fans in the first 10 rows - which are currently obstructed views - to finally see over the players. Ultimately, future plans include the expansion of Gossett Team House to include improved training areas and locker facilities, as well as the addition of nearly 8,000 seats in the west end zone to reach the targeted stadium capacity.
"I know how this is going to help us in a lot of areas like recruiting, and establish a football program, which the goal of mine is to be a perennial top 10, top 20 team," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. " ... This tangible result will be a beautiful place to come not only see the game but experience the game. I think it will help. Our future players want to play in this type of environment, and I think they see the improvements that are being made and will want to definitely get involved with this program."
The biggest undertakings in the first phase of the project are the expansion of Tyser Tower along the south sideline and the addition of 500 mezzanine-level seats with heated and covered seating. Separate from the main project, there will also be a new video board above the west end zone installed this summer.
Athletic department officials have spent the past six months working with architects at Heery International on the designs, and unveiled the first renderings yesterday. The cost for phase one of the project is $50.8 million, to be paid entirely by the athletic department. Maryland sold the naming rights of the field to Chevy Chase Bank for $20 million last year, and borrowed $35 million from the University System of Maryland. The suite sales are expected to pay the debt and fund future renovations.
Ten suites have already been sold, Yow said, putting the department ahead of schedule. Prices range from about $40,000 to $50,000 per year, and contracts are available for three, five and seven years. They will be located on the second, third and fourth floors of Tyser Tower. Season tickets are included, but the food is not.
There haven't been any major stadium renovations since the upper deck was added on the north side after the 1994 season. In 2001 and 2002, temporary seating was added to boost capacity to its current level of 51,500.
"We've been growing each year," Friedgen said. "If you look back on the history of the improvements that have been made in the football program, there's been a long gap. We've probably made more improvements in the last six years than maybe we've done in the history of the program. Season ticket sales hopefully will continue to grow."
Note -- Maryland cornerback Richard Taylor will undergo arthroscopic surgery and might miss next season if he has a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Byrd Stadium Renovations
The start date for the first phase is in December, with the anticipated finish in August 2010. The cost is projected at $50.8 million. Phase one includes:
Expansion of Tyser Tower along the south sideline
Addition of 64 luxury suites with indoor and outdoor seating
Addition of 500 mezzanine-level seats with heated and covered seating
A university suite with seating for 200 guests
New work areas for television, radio and print media
New work areas for coaches and game-day operating staff
A new team store
Enhanced seating for disabled fans
Installation of railing in the north and south lower bowl for safety and comfort
Chair-back seating in the 200 level on the north side
New restrooms and concessions on the south side
Lowering of the playing field to improve sight lines for fans in the first 10 rows, converting those 3,000 seats from obstructed views to prime seats
Painting of all roofs that are currently blue
Expansion of Gossett Team House to include improved training areas and locker rooms
Addition of nearly 8,000 seats in the west end zone, bringing stadium capacity to about 60,000 seats.
For more information / /www.greatexpectationsathletics.com