Election night was a long one for Bangor High School athletics director Steve Vanidestine.
But it was also a memorable one.
Vanidestine was the driving force behind the $2.73 million bond issue to renovate the Cameron Stadium complex behind the William S. Cohen Middle School. Bangor voters approved it Tuesday by a vote of 7,864-6,499.
“It’s really exciting,” Vanidestine said. “There is no question that we needed this for the community. I am so pleased and appreciative that the Bangor community would support this effort during such a tough time [with the COVID-19 pandemic].”
The renovation will include an artificial turf surface to replace the grass on the football field and an eight-lane, all-weather track. The surface on the existing, six-lane track — which is not adequate for championship meets — has deteriorated noticeably over time.
Several Bangor programs will be able to take advantage of the new artificial turf surface in addition to the football team. Both boys and girls soccer and lacrosse teams and girls field hockey will also be able to use it.
“This new development is a great opportunity for not only our high school teams, but for the middle schools, recreational leagues and youth leagues,” Bangor girls soccer coach Andrew Varisco said. “Kids in our development programs will get a chance to play on a quality field. And it will be great for people in the community.
“Thousands of people will have the opportunity to use it.”
Bangor High football coach Dave Morris said he is excited for all the athletes who will benefit from the facility.
“This is unbelievable. It’s a great day for the Bangor Rams,” said Morris, who also is Bangor’s baseball head coach. “It’s a great situation for all of us and the timing is right.”
Vanidestine, Varisco and Morris said having a versatile, first-class facility will enable Bangor to host regional and state championship events in a variety of sports, which could provide a financial boost to the community.
“It will be an economic driver for years to come,” Vanidestine said.
The trend in recent years is for the Maine Principals’ Association to hold regional and state championship games in fall sports on fields with an artificial surface. It maintains its structural integrity during poor weather conditions.
Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland traditionally hosts three of the four football state championship games and the other is played at Morse Field on the University of Maine campus in Orono. Morris said the upgrade should enable games to be played at Cameron Stadium as it had before artificial turf fields were introduced.
Bangor has already had a site survey done and is hoping to put the project out to bid soon so the renovations can begin next spring.
“I’d like next year’s seniors to be able to finish their fall seasons on the facility,” Vandestine said.
He will continue to study other turf facilities to choose the best option for Bangor’s field.
“It will be safety first,” Vanidestine said. “We want the safest surface we can get.”
He intends to make sure the surface is adequate for soccer and field hockey because those sports are more impacted by the height of the artificial grass than are football and lacrosse.
“We would like to get at least 10 years out of the turf, maybe more, and we want to make sure the dimensions allow for soccer to have the widest maximum width,” he said.
Vanidestine explained the process usually begins with work on the drainage and field surface so the track isn’t damaged by the heavy equipment needed to do the groundwork.
Plans call for the throwing and jumping event areas to be located on the Mt. Hope Avenue side of the facility. A retaining wall will be placed on the Cohen Middle School side of the complex.
Bangor track coach Al Mosca said in addition to having a top-notch facility, they are making it “user friendly” so athletes don’t have to run from one end of the facility to the other to compete.
“Having a brand new facility is a once-in-a-career thing,” said an appreciative Mosca.
Morris said having an artificial turf field and a new track should help Bangor attract more students from outside the city who seek top-notch athletic facilities.
Vanidestine, who is in his 37th year as the athletic director at Bangor High, said he will be forever grateful to everyone who supported the project and helped make it a reality.
“There are a lot of people who should be thanked and I’m very appreciative,” he said.