Published 8/9/17 in the Montgomery County Sentinel Newspapers

COLLEGE PARK – University of Maryland and sports history was made in Cole Field House and thanks to some state-of-the-art renovations, the university soon hopes to make history again – in sports science.

Last week, on Aug. 2, the University of Maryland (UMD), the University of Maryland Baltimore, their athletic and academic leaders, and local politicians joined together to celebrate the dedication of the first phase of the $155 million field house renovation and break ground on phase two.

“This is the capstone of the partnership between University of Maryland and the University of Maryland in Baltimore,” said Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland. “Five years ago in March of 2012, these two campuses formed a partnership. Since that day, when there were very little interactions between the two campuses, we now have over 60 joint faculty appointments. They have generated together over $80 million in research funding in that neither school could get on its own… And the symbol of the project is the new Cole Field House.”

The celebration showcased the brand new, full-size indoor football field and surrounding facilities as well as a new set of windows. The renovations effectively change the building from the former home of the Terrapins’ basketball teams to a training facility for the university’s football team.

That changing of the guard was actualized as current Head Football Coach DJ Durkin and former basketball coaching legend Gary Williams arrived to the celebration at the same time.

“I was walking over from the offices to come over to this and it just so happened to time up as I was walking up, Coach Williams was walking at the same time. And my memories of Cole Field House are of Coach Williams on the sideline just sweating everywhere, yelling at players, officials, anyone near him and to walk into this building with him… it was really special,” Durkin said. “What a special day. How about this place?”

Durkin said he has not been able to keep the smile off his face all week as he thought about the new facilities at Cole. His team has also been in high spirits and said the student-athletes were blown away by the indoor field.

For his part, Williams said he was glad to see the field house, where not only sports history was made, but Williams himself has many fond memories, brought back into use.

“This really takes us a step forward. It’s great. I have so many memories here, even as a player,” Williams. “I really appreciate what they’ve done.”

History was made on UMD’s campus and Cole Field House was there to see it. The color line was broken when Texas Western beat Kentucky in Cole. A ping-pong game between the United States and China was played there during the Cold War. The stage inside was graced by the likes of Elvis and even John F. Kennedy.

And Loh said the building is probably the most beloved on campus, with the most memories attached to it, which is why he thinks it was so important to renovate it and have it once again be a center of activity.

“Sixty-one years ago, our predecessors dedicated Cole Field House and in the ensuing decades, Cole Field House has been a symbol of the University of Maryland,” he said. “More people have emotional attachment to Cole Field House than any other facility on this campus. It is an iconic building.”

Now the building will not just be home to athletics with an indoor field, the football team’s future locker room and multiple training facilities, including a hydrotherapy center. It will also house a state-of-the-art medical and medical research facility to not only be utilized by professionals, but also by students studying at both Maryland universities and by patients in the area.

The finished Cole Field House will include The Center for Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance, which will bring together, and help the university recruit, leading researchers in neuroscience, biomechanics, genomics and those on the “front lines of advanced study of the brain and nervous system.”

One of those professionals is Elizabeth Quinlan, who is a professor in UMD’s Department of Biology. She will also be the scientific co-director for the Center of Sports Medicine.

“I am very excited to be part of such an ambitious plan. The plan for Cole is ambitious because it is bringing together people from both campuses, it is bringing athletics and orthopedics and the basic science to do, really, one goal,” she said.

That goal, she said, is to transfer discoveries in the laboratory into the clinics to really help patients. Bringing together scientists and clinicians into the same building will break down the barriers between research and practice, she said, and accelerate the work.

Quinlan said she is particularly excited about head injury research and the open bi-dialogue with clinicians as the university aspires to “transform the way head injury is approached and treated.”

The new facilities will not only help the university in its recruitment of high class professors and medical professionals, but will also give students hands-on experience.

“This is real-world laboratory training and not classroom training,” she said. “They participate in the research we do and the papers we publish and the work we disseminate through typical academic channels. So the resources that are available at Cole, both the state-of-the-art physical resources and the intellectual resources available to Cole, are all going to benefit our students who are training in our labs to be the next generation academics and scientists.”

The vision for the field house was unveiled in 2016 and was supported not only by the state government and local leaders, but also by a number of donors. Loh said those donations and the pride in the Maryland Terps will help complete the renovated facility and push it into a domain “unmatched in Division I sports.”

“You all know that the terrapin is that fearless little creature, that turtle, that can only walk forward. It cannot walk backwards. And how does that turtle walk forward? By sticking its neck out and taking one step at a time,” Loh said. “That is the can-do spirit of the Terps. We think big, we aim high, we dare greatly. That is the fearless idea.”