Maryland is more than halfway to its fundraising goal for $36 million basketball center

Athletic director Damon Evans (left), women's basketball coach Brenda Frese and men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon unveil plans for a new basketball practice center. (Andy Kostka/For The Diamondback)

Once Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon arrived at the lectern Tuesday morning, he raised both arms into the air and yelled out a “Yes!” that echoed through the cavernous Xfinity Center.

There were moments in which Turgeon lost hope he’d be here, part of an announcement for the next stage of fundraising for a basketball-specific training facility. There were days in which Turgeon grew exasperated as his team was shepherded around campus looking for a place to practice.

Now, though, as he stood at center court with the Maryland flag draped over the student section behind him, there was untempered joy.

“I am so excited,” Turgeon declared. “You have no idea.”

The Maryland athletic department, still finishing its Cole Field House redevelopment into a football training center, will undergo a new project: a privately funded $36 million, 60,000-square foot facility with two basketball courts, a strength and conditioning center, sports medicine facilities in addition to office and meeting spaces. Athletic director Damon Evans said $19 million has already been raised.

There’s only two Power 5 programs without separate basketball training centers — Boston College and Maryland, a team spokesperson said. Turgeon had seen the development of such facilities while head coach at Wichita State and Texas A&M, and he estimated his vision for a College Park training center began about six or seven years ago.

“This building is not about keeping up with the Joneses,” Turgeon said. “It’s an arm’s race in college athletics. But this facility is needed.”

[Read more: Maryland basketball’s Anthony Cowan, Jalen Smith named to preseason All-Big Ten team]

His yearning reached a fever pitch last winter as his squad searched for a place to practice when Xfinity Center was set up for a commencement ceremony. In the Pavilion next door, there was graduation dress rehearsal. Across campus at another court, there was a roof leak. They couldn’t get into the next building for practice until the following day.

“While we’re doing that, it’s 48 degrees and raining out and we’re running in our practice uniforms and our managers are carrying things from this building to that building so we can have a practice,” Turgeon said. “And we’re Maryland basketball.”

Brenda Frese, the women’s basketball coach, can relate to the frustration. She has to coordinate with Turgeon regarding which team practices in Xfinity when, since both coaches prefer the afternoon slot. 

[Read more: Maryland basketball center Chol Marial will undergo surgery, miss 3-4 months]

Finding time on the Xfinity main court is also tricky during the summer with summer camps and floor resurfacing. Unlike Turgeon, Frese has never coached at a school with a practice facility. She’s heard from Turgeon, though, what it’s like to have one.

“He’s talked about to me that it is a game-changer,” Frese said. “Being able to have the access with your players, being able to kind of create your own schedule when you want to practice, is huge. … You’ll be able to control all those variables.”

Maryland still needs to raise $17 million for the facility and expects the design and construction to take 36 months. As fundraising picked up and plans solidified, Frese took more notice of similar facilities at VCU and Nebraska, building excitement for what the addition could do for her program.

Frese and Turgeon have started to add the training center into their recruiting pitches for members of the 2021 class, expecting the facility to be complete at some point during their time in College Park. It’s another selling point for two coaches with strong recruiting histories to use.

“It will usher in a new era of success for basketball,” Evans said. “This is a facility our student-athletes, our coaches, our programs and this great university will be extremely proud of. I simply say to you, let’s go out and get the remaining dollars and make this project a reality.”

Turgeon said, perhaps in jest, that they’ve designed the building 16 times already. The location is set on the south side of Xfinity Center over Lot UU and the grass hill beside it, and there will be a tunnel connecting both buildings. 

The coach, going into his ninth season at the helm, said he doesn’t need a gigantic space.

But Turgeon’s looking forward to his elliptical sitting inside the strength and conditioning room — which he said could be four times larger than the current one — rather than in the hallway inside Xfinity Center. And he hopes running through the rain while searching for a place to practice will soon be a thing of the past.

“We have a really good culture of work. Our guys come early, they stay late,” Turgeon said. “And there’s some days you just don’t have anywhere to go — and now, that should never happen again.”

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