Maryland football coach Mike Locksley likened the day to Christmas. He had spent countless late nights on campus and walked by the athletic department’s multiyear effort to reconstruct Cole Field House into the new home of the program’s football facility.
“For me, it’s a dream come true,” the third-year coach said, standing inside a room in a 10,000-square foot dining area.
Maryland on Friday unveiled the newly minted Jones-Hill House, becoming the latest program to jump headfirst into college football’s arms race of constructing state-of-the-art practice facilities.
The university in April renamed the legendary site of Terps basketball games for nearly five decades after Darryl Hill and Billy Jones, the first Black men to integrate football and basketball at the university, respectively.
Maryland in 2013 announced a campaign to raise tens of millions of dollars for the effort as it was set to transition from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten. The project was launched under a different president (Wallace Loh), athletic director (Kevin Anderson) and coach (Randy Edsall) than the ones currently in place but the university saw the project through, even as the football program has struggled in its nascent years in the conference and the department has been struck by revenue losses, most recently caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2017, the university unveiled the indoor practice fields, and over the next few years finished the remaining additions to the facility.
The total price-tag of the project, which was financed by private donations and the state, came to $149.3 million, Evans said, from the entirety of the facilities’ amenities to the over 40,000 square feet dedicated to the Center for Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance, an orthopedic treatment center and the school’s Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The highlights include a 24,000-square foot strength and conditioning room — four times the size of the room in the Gossett Football Team House — with facial recognition software to track the progress of players. The locker room features 126 individual lockers, equipped with a recliner and ottoman and wireless phone charger.
The players’ lounge has a pool table, barber shop that can be converted into a DJ station, multiple high-definition televisions and even a recording studio. There’s two grass practice fields that lead to the offensive and defensive team meeting rooms. A 196-seat auditorium spans two stories with a projection room to watch film. The dining area — three times the size of the area in Gossett — includes a Mongolian grill and helmet-shaped pizza oven.
The sports medicine room, open to athletes from several sports, includes specific areas for treatment and rehab, two 45-foot plunge pools for cooling and a Hydroworks pool for athletes recovering from lower-body injuries.
And across the facility there are homages to the football program’s past and the state’s culture, such as displays of helmets dating to the 1940s and quotes from Maryland football greats lining the walls.
“This is a first-class, first-rate facility,” Evans said, standing alongside Locksley and sophomore wide receiver Rakim Jarrett. “This is the standard for Maryland. This is the standard that we have to set when we build facilities here for our student-athletes.”
Locksley and Evans noted the efforts of multiple people as pivotal in the construction, from Joshua Kaplan, the associate athletic director who helped oversee the project, to Under Armour founder and former walk-on Kevin Plank, who reportedly donated $40 million, and former Senate president Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, a Maryland alum and tireless advocate for the university’s athletics who died January 2021.
The football team was shown the facility early Friday morning and Locksley said the players’ excitement was at its peak once they saw the expanded locker room, which he called “like the kitchen for most homes.”
“When you’re at your house and you raise kids,” he said, “you want your house to be the house that they all come to. … We tried to do everything we can to be player-centric with the development of this project and making sure that our players have everything in place right here inside of Jones-Hill House to give them every chance to be successful in life.”
Locksley said the facility was 14 years in the making, dating to the time he was the running backs coach in College Park. He recalled having to “practice on ice” for the 2002 Orange Bowl and then “call and beg the Washington Football Team to use their indoor facility to help us get ready.”
“This facility will stand against any across the country,” Locksley said, “and as it should as the flagship university.”
Jarrett, a Landover native who starred at St. John’s College, said he heard about this project as an eighth-grader and it was used a recruiting tool then.
“Everything that this place has, every place has,” he said. “I mean, given that it’s at home I believe it makes it a little bit better than everybody else.”
The impact the facility will have on the program’s recruiting efforts, near and far, was not lost on Locksley. Its unveiling comes at a prime time for the Terps, with the beginning of June marking the end of a dead period in recruiting that spanned over a year because of the pandemic. As someone who spent time at Alabama, which in 2020 completed a $16 million renovation of its football facility, Locksley has seen the standard for player accommodations.
But it’s only one part of the effort to rebuild the program, which looks to take another leap in 2021 after recording a 3-11 conference record since Locksley returned to the program in December 2018.
“This isn’t the ‘We hit the lottery and it’s time for us to lay back and enjoy the fruits of hitting the lottery,’” Locksley said. “This building really shows the investment [from] people like my boss Damon Evans and Josh, who did a lot of the work here, and President [Darryll] Pines. …
“This is an investment that they made in us. And as a team, this building shows excellence, which sets a standard. … To see this come to fruition and the vision that Maryland has, this is a statement that we are serious about football. And I’m excited to be a part and lead the charge for.”