The scene in the newly completed Student Activities Building was a festive one the night of December 2, 1955. University officials, dignitaries from around the state, including Governor Theodore R. McKeldin, and representatives from other Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) schools gathered to dedicate the new structure and celebrate the opening of the second largest arena on the East Coast, dwarfed at the time only by Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The ceremonies, chaired by J. Freeman Pyle, dean of the College of Business and Public Administration, featured addresses by Governor McKeldin and Charles Wickard, president of the Student Government Association. Judge William P. Cole, Jr., Class of 1910 and chair of the Board of Regents, presented the building to the university, and President Wilson H. Elkins officially accepted the structure.
Following all the speeches and photo-ops, the Terps took to the court against the Virginia Cavaliers. Bob Kessler scored the first points in the new arena, hitting two free throws in the opening moments, but Virginia answered back quickly, with two free throws of their own from Bob McCarty and a basket by Bob Hardy. The Terps hit a lay-up and capitalized on an offensive rebound to take the lead at 6-4. At halftime, they were in front of the Cavaliers by 4, at 34-30, and they continued to pull away in the second half, thanks to some hot shooting from Kessler and teammate Bob O’Brien.
Ultimately Maryland prevailed in a low-scoring affair, 67-55, the ACC opener for both teams. Kessler finished with 23 points, and O’Brien 15, as the high scorers for the Terps.
Who could have predicted at the time that the Terps would also end their playing days in Cole with a game against those same Virginia Cavaliers, winning that final contest on March 3, 2002, 112-92.
Today the historic field house, named in December 1956 for Judge William P. Cole, Jr., has been re-purposed as the Terrapin Performance Center, with a dazzling indoor practice facility; the Center for Sports Medicine, Health, and Human Performance; and the future home of the Academy of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
This is the second in a series of blog posts the University Archives will be featuring as part of the commemoration of the 100th season of Maryland men’s basketball, 2018-2019, with our colleagues in Intercollegiate Athletics. Visit the #Terps100 website for more information about and to participate in the celebration.
Follow Terrapin Tales throughout the season for additional features on landmark days in Maryland men’s basketball history. Next in line is December 30, when we mark Maryland’s first win in the Big Ten.