A new basketball building, three new lighted outdoor artificial turf fields and two new domed facilities are among the highlights of the $110 athletics facilities master plan announced Wednesday by the University of Maine.
The projects will be made possible by a $90 million gift made last fall by the Harold Alfond Foundation and $20 million in additional donations that are being sought by the athletics department.
UMaine plans to perform some smaller upgrades during the summer of 2021, then intends to begin construction on the new fields in 2022.
University of Maine athletics director Ken Ralph said the outdated FieldTurf surface on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium will be replaced in time for the 2021 fall football season. The softball, soccer and field hockey fields should be ready for their 2022 campaigns.
Virtually all of UMaine’s athletics facilities are expected to be rebuilt or renovated as part of the comprehensive plan that is expected to energize student-athletes, coaches and fans.
“For many years our athletes have been performing in outdated and even crumbling, cramped facilities. Thanks to the generosity of the Alfond Foundation and support from university leadership, we will be able to provide the quality of facilities necessary for our Black Bears to compete on a national level,” Ralph said.
Plans call for construction of new artificial turf playing fields for the women’s soccer, softball and field hockey teams. All three self-contained facilities will occupy new locations in the northeast corner of the athletics complex.
Ralph said those fields are priority items for the first phase of the work as they address UMaine’s need to comply with Title IX, the federal law that requires that women be provided with equitable opportunities to participate in sports, including access to facilities.
One major element is the construction of the UMaine Multipurpose Center, which will become the home of Black Bears basketball. The building will be located in the area now occupied by the parking lot area nearest the south end zone of at Alfond Stadium. It will include locker rooms, team offices, lounges and film rooms, a sports medicine center, administrative offices and the Bear Necessities Fan Shop.
“That will be a 16-month construction project,” Ralph said, explaining predicting a timetable for its completion is difficult.
UMaine athletics on Wednesday also embarked on a $20 million fundraising project that will ensure there will be enough money to accomplish all of the facilities goals within 10 to 12 years.
“This is a challenge for the entire UMaine family to rise to the occasion and seize the moment to supply our students with the best facilities that they so richly deserve,” UMaine System Chancellor Daniel P. Malloy said. “Be competitive on the field. Win those championships and also [note] we are addressing issues of fairness and gender equity at the same time.”
Until the Multipurpose Center is ready, UMaine basketball teams will continue to play at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The Black Bears played at Memorial Gym on campus this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also planned is construction of two enclosed domed facilities, a new artificial surface on the baseball field at Mahaney Diamond and upgrades to the Mahaney Clubhouse.
The Speed Dome will encompass 100,000 square feet and will house A 100-yard synthetic turf field and a 300-meter track. It will be located in the vicinity of where Kessock Field (softball) and the field hockey field are now situated.
Another smaller dome will be erected in the footprint of the Mahaney Dome, but will be 60 percent larger.
“That will have a full-width soccer field and we’ll also be able to get softball in there,” Ralph said.
Renovations to the Memorial Gym complex will include improvements to Wallace Pool and new locker rooms for the swim teams, along with locker rooms for softball, field hockey and women’s soccer and upgrades to staff offices.
UMaine’s plan for Alfond Stadium is to make it a more intimate venue by removing the track that now surrounds the playing surface, closing in the field on one end zone and moving the seating closer to the field.
The football team also will be the beneficiary of a new locker room and offices in the multipurpose center.
Alfond Arena is slated for changes that will include expansion of the Shawn Walsh Hockey Center with new locker rooms for the men’s and women’s hockey teams, a strength and conditioning facility, offices and film rooms.
Ralph said it was of the utmost importance to build facilities that were “high-quality, simple and intelligent and that will be long-lasting.”
“We are going to build outstanding athletic facilities to support our Black Bear athletes and students and youth from all over the state,” UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said. “Wins for our athletic program and all the work we do to advance the initiatives supported by the Harold Alfond Foundation will include inclusion and community building.”
Ralph said being able to put the $110 million plan into motion has created in him a blend of “excitement and relief.
“It’s hard to believe. This has been part of my daily life for over 2 1/2 years,” he said.