For the first time in 13 years, the University of Maine football team broke in a brand new artificial turf surface at its home field in Orono on Thursday.
The old turf surface was installed in 2008 on Morse Field in Alfond Stadium and had deteriorated in the years since. The typical shelf life for FieldTurf is eight to 10 years.
The updated turf field is part of the $90 million Harold Alfond Foundation gift for sports facilities upgrades at the university, and plays a critical role for the team in its ability to recruit future players.
“The guys are really excited. This is a big moment for the program and the university,” said UMaine head football coach Nick Charlton.
Charlton said based on his experience, it will take a few days to break in the new turf.
“It is way softer than the old turf. It’s really nice,” UMaine senior cornerback Richard Carr said. “It is a little slick because it’s new but after we break it in, it’s going to be perfect.”
The new turf cost less than $500,000, according to UMaine Director of Athletics Ken Ralph. While part of the Harold Alfond Foundation gift, the money will initially come out of the school’s athletic budget.
The UMaine football logo has already been painted on it at midfield.
“It’s always nice when you get something new. We’ve been working hard and this makes you want to work even harder,” said junior quarterback Joe Fagnano.
Carr said the players had wanted the new turf and the fact it became a reality “tells you that the university cares about the players. It puts the players first.”
Charlton said the turf and the logo provide “positive energy for the program” and shows that the university is moving in the right direction.
The university is also redoing the hallway that leads to the locker room. Charlton said these improvements are “critical for recruiting but even more important for the players who are here now.”
The Black Bears went 2-2 during an abbreviated spring schedule caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Fagnano and Carr said being able to play four games against Colonial Athletic Association rivals rather than having just a normal spring season with practices and no games against outside competition was valuable.
UMaine didn’t have a fall 2020 season due to the pandemic.
“Freshmen got a chance to play four games that didn’t count [toward their eligibility] and everyone was able to get back in the swing of playing football again and getting used to the pace,” Carr said.
UMaine’s players will workout throughout July and then will have five days off before starting training camp on Aug. 3.
The Black Bears will open the season by hosting the University of Delaware on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. Delaware is ranked sixth in the country in the HERO Sports preseason Football Championship Subdivision poll.
“I can’t wait to see fans at the game. That’s what I’m looking forward to,” said Carr, referring to the pandemic restrictions that prevented fans from attending the spring games.