Renovations have begun to replace the artificial turf on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium at the University of Maine in Orono. The old surface has been removed. The facility is UMaine's home for football. Credit: Larry Mahoney / BDN

Work on replacing the outdated artificial turf surface on the University of Maine’s football facility is under way.

The old turf on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium in Orono has already been removed and the new FieldTurf surface will be installed beginning next week, according to UMaine director of athletics Ken Ralph.

“It will be a three- to four-week process,” said Ralph. The project will cost less than $500,000.

The money will initially come out of the athletics budget, but Ralph said UMaine will take advantage of the $90 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation for facilities upgrades to pay for the work.

“It’s going to be really great to get this accomplished. It’s the first step in the upgrades,” Ralph said. “[The old surface] was well past its usual life span.”

The old FieldTurf surface was installed in the summer of 2008 and the average life span is usually eight to 10 years, according to published reports.

“Our whole program is excited for the turf installation and getting out [on it] by the first week of July,” UMaine head football coach Nick Charlton said.

“This shows the great commitment to our team from the university while also making a dramatic impact on our current players and in recruiting.”

Moving forward with facilities upgrades is important for student-athletes and for all UMaine athletics programs, Ralph said.

“It also sends a nice message to all of our sports programs that this is the first step and that the other upgrades are coming,” Ralph said. “This is an exciting time for our program. The next half-dozen years are going to be fun.”

Ralph hopes to have the new women’s soccer field built next summer and also complete significant upgrades to the field hockey and softball fields.

He said there will be an adjustment period as the players adapt to the new surface.

“It will feel pretty soft and spongy at first,” Ralph said.

“It will take the team some time to get used to it and also for the field to break in a little bit. It will take some reps for the field to start responding naturally. But we have plenty of time this summer to get ready for the first competition in September.”

The first game scheduled to be played on the new surface is UMaine’s season-opener on Thursday, Sept. 2, against Colonial Athletic Association rival Delaware.

The game originally was scheduled for Sept 4.

“Part of our thinking is that it is Labor Day weekend and so many families in Maine like to go away for that last one weekend. So we didn’t want our fans to have to make a choice,” Ralph said. “Now they can still go to the game and get away for the weekend.”

Ralph said Charlton and Delaware head coach Danny Rocco were pleased with the new game date.

Delaware beat UMaine 37-0 in a mutual season opener on March 6 as part of the abbreviated spring campaign that resulted from the cancellation of the fall season because of COVID-19 concerns.