Seth Allen
Seth Allen

Since the Terrapins men’s basketball team announced last month that it would host Maryland Madness in Cole Field House, coach Mark Turgeon has maintained that the Terps should play a regular-season game in the arena that housed the program from 1955 until 2002.

Turgeon has said that playing a nonconference game during winter break in Cole would boost attendance numbers, generate national buzz and adequately pay respect to the Terps’ history. And after the third-year coach called Friday night’s Maryland Madness “one of those nights you will always remember,” it’s clear his thoughts haven’t changed.

There are logistical issues to playing in Cole that Turgeon acknowledges, but support for the idea is growing. Former Terps in attendance Friday certainly seemed excited about the prospect of meaningful hoops returning to the arena.

“I think it would be great,” said Gary Williams, who coached the Terps from 1989 to 2011 and led them to the 2002 national championship. “I think they want to play it during the break when there are not many people around anyway. That would be a way to make it feasible for the season-ticket holders and the students who want to come. It would be great to play a game here.”

The Terps cannot play a regular-season game in Cole this season as their schedule is already set and their opponents would have had to agree to it prior to signing contracts to visit College Park.

Beyond that, though, Turgeon wouldn’t rule anything out.

“I think it would be great for Maryland basketball to try to do it once a year,” Turgeon said. “But ultimately in the end, I don’t know if it’ll be my decision.”

The cost of preparing Cole for a game may keep the Terps from playing there. Moving a court and hoops into the building and checking safety measures are added expenses the Terps wouldn’t have to worry about if they stay in Comcast Center.

Still, Turgeon has said he believes the team could benefit financially from the move. The Washington Post reported last week that Turgeon estimated the school could make $200,000 to $300,000 from a regular-season game at Cole.

The Terps struggle to sell tickets when playing nonconference games during winter break. Turgeon’s theory is that moving a game from Comcast — which seats 17,950 — to Cole would attract fans to a game that isn’t otherwise well attended.

Cole sat more than 14,000 fans while it was used as a basketball arena, so if a game there sells out, the school is likely to make more money than it would in a poorly attended contest at Comcast.

Friday night helped confirm Turgeon’s optimism as a sellout crowd of an announced 11,500 packed Cole for an alumni game, ceremonies honoring former players and coaches, and scrimmages.

Turgeon believes playing at Cole could foster nostalgia and develop the fan base.

“This building has great tradition. I know I get a good feeling every time I walk in [Cole],” said Walt Williams, a Terps forward in the early 1990s. “I think it would be something that’s great.”

There is some precedent for the Terps to play a game in Cole. ACC rival N.C. State stopped hosting men’s basketball games in Reynolds Coliseum after the 1999 season, but the program still plays one nonconference game a year in the building.

Reynolds Coliseum, however, is still home to the Wolfpack’s women’s basketball team, while Cole is only used as an intramural indoor soccer facility and a venue for concerts.

Playing a regular-season basketball game in a gym that hasn’t held a varsity sports event in 11 years is rather unique. But Turgeon and others involved in the program think it’s worth a try.

And after Friday night, at least one of the Terps’ current players is pining to play a game that matters on the program’s former home court.

“Hopefully we can get a game here,” forward Dez Wells said. “I would play so much harder. It would just be a different atmosphere. I can’t even imagine it. It’s great. I don’t want to leave.”