The new field at Maine Maritime Academy. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Maritime Academy

When football and soccer players soon report to Maine Maritime Academy for the start of preseason practices, they’ll be greeted by new artificial turf on their home field.

Installation of the new surface by Sprinturf at Ritchie Field on the Castine campus was completed earlier this week, MMA athletic director Steve Peed said.

Sprinturf also installed the previous turf, which lasted for 13 years. Work to install the new surface began in mid-July.

“It was a rapid process,” he added. “The same company that won the bid to put in the last edition in put this edition in, and it’s the same product to some extent.

“I tell people we’re going from a 2006 Chevy Equinox to a 2018 Chevy Equinox. It’s pretty much the same stuff.”

The $274,000 replacement project marks the third edition of artificial turf to be installed at Ritchie Field, home to the Mariners’ football, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s lacrosse teams.

Credit: Courtesy of Maine Maritime Academy

The field had a grass surface until 1993 when a $600,000 gift from the late Waterville philanthropist Harold Alfond covered the expense necessary for the installation of a KonyTurf 9009 system. The old, carpet-style turf was the first of its kind in northern New England.

In 2005, the field was upgraded with the installation of a 125-by-80-yard polypropylene fiber and rubber infill system that lasted until this year.

“The argument to replace it for me was health and safety,” Peed said. “Thirteen years for a turf field is plenty of service, and it was getting to a point where we really couldn’t keep the pellets in where the lacrosse crease is and in the really heavy areas of play, which you want to be the safest.

“It was just time.”

The new turf is one of several improvements being completed at MMA’s athletic facilities.

Another project involved a $400,000 renovation of the men’s locker rooms funded entirely by private donations.

Credit: Courtesy of Maine Maritime Academy

“That was another case where it was just time,” said Peed, who added that the women’s locker rooms underwent similar renovations about four years ago. “The space we were in hadn’t changed in about 40 years. Lockers were beat up, there was a concrete floor, aesthetically it wasn’t pleasing and it wasn’t functional for meeting spaces, so meetings were getting pushed all over the building.”

“Now we’ve really got top-end stuff in there. It looks sharp and clean, and everyone’s got their own defined space now,” Peed added. “A big win for us there.”

MMA also converted some basement space into a varsity weight room in an effort to eliminate stress on the existing weight-training facilities.

“We had a couple of racquetball courts down there that took on water on the basement level so they were subject to future water issues,” Peed said. “With sump pumps and drains cut in we could no longer use the space for racquetball but were able to repurpose that area.”

Equipment for the new weight room is scheduled to be installed by Aug. 17.

“This will take a lot of that pressure off the weight room up top, and really give our kids who are athletes an opportunity to train in a good space and be with their teams,” Peed said.

That $65,000 effort also was funded privately through proceeds from alumni golf tournaments the athletic department hosts each year in Maine and Texas.

Peed said several upgrades also have been made at the school’s swimming pool, including a new scoreboard, platforms, timing system and bleachers.

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Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...