A rendering of the softball facility at the University of Maine. Credit: Courtesy of University of Maine

Work has begun on the new University of Maine softball facility.

The facility is expected to be completed by March, according to University of Maine director of athletics Ken Ralph. The new field hockey and soccer fields won’t be ready this fall, although Ralph expects them to be ready for the 2023 campaigns.

The University of Maine received a $90 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation for upgrades to their athletic facilities in October 2020.

The new softball field will have an artificial surface, lights, a two-lane hitting pavilion, bleacher seating for 500 with more than 200 chairback seats, new dugouts and a press box.

“After it’s done, it will arguably be the best facility in the Northeast,” Ralph said.

Ralph said he would love to be able to work with the Maine Principals’ Association and host regional and state championship games there as well as at their other facilities once they are completed.

He noted that if there was a playoff game going on, the teams scheduled to play the next game would be able to warm up on Mahaney Diamond’s artificial turf surface which is very close to the softball field.

The athletic director also said it will be available for high school teams that want to play regular season games on it.

“We want to be good partners. It’s going to be a great facility and we want to make sure it gets used,” Ralph said.

The softball facility is the first to be updated because the timing worked out best to get contractors and subcontractors, Ralph said.

Since the soccer and field hockey seasons are in the fall, there wasn’t enough lead time to complete their projects in time.

Construction is expected to be started on the soccer field during the season while the team continues to practice and play its games on the baseball field at Mahaney Diamond.

Work will begin on the new field hockey facility as soon as the team’s season ends.

“We’re still gathering information about the field hockey facility and we will have to make a slight design change to improve the new soccer facility,” he said.

Every sports facility on campus will eventually be either replaced by a new one or it will receive a significant upgrade.

That includes a new on-campus basketball complex, a domed facility and a locker room complex for several sports.

Ralph said supply chain issues and having enough workers available have complicated the process.

They are currently weighing bids to upgrade the video boards in Alfond Arena.

That will include a board at center ice, a ribbon board — long, narrow boards at the ends of the rink on which you can scroll information — and a high-definition board that will be hung above the entryway to the arena.

“We’re looking to install those during the summer of 2023,” he said.