Work has begun on upgrades to the athletic fields at Hermon High School. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Work has begun on the $3.9 million Hermon Athletic Complex Improvement Project at Hermon High School, despite the recent winter weather.

The major upgrade to the athletic field and the installation of artificial turf is expected to be completed this summer, according to Town Council Chair Steven Thomas, who headed up the track committee. The eight-lane rubber track that is part of the project is to be completed by fall.

While the school has winter and spring track-and-field programs, participants need to go to other schools to compete in track events. The teams’ practices sometimes take place in the high school’s parking lot, or at Hampden Academy’s track when Hampden students aren’t using it.

Work has begun on upgrades to the athletic fields at Hermon High School. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Hermon voters in November approved the project, with 65 percent of voters approving the track and field upgrades. The installation of the artificial turf was okayed by 56 percent of the voters.

It was the second time in 16 months that residents approved plans for the work, but rising construction costs pushed the bottom line up dramatically from the $2.4 million approved in June 2021.

That proposal did not include the $1.2 million for artificial turf passed in November.

Members of the committee that planned the project and advocated for its approval held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday morning in the sleet and ice storm. Thomas, who chaired the committee, said the project will benefit Hermon residents of all ages.

“I think we all agree that what we are doing here today is also an important investment in our children that will last a lifetime,” he said in a statement he made at the event and sent to the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday.

Work has begun on upgrades to the athletic fields at Hermon High School. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

“Students will be encouraged to set personal goals, work as a team and think strategically. They will also form lasting friendships, learn the value of hard work and develop a healthy lifestyle.”

Thomas said the committee faced and overcame many challenges, the most daunting of which was the COVID-19 pandemic. He found inspiration in the words of his high school football coach.

“I often thought about my high school football coach who would firmly encourage each player to ‘never quit and keep your feet moving’ during the dreaded preseason practices,” Thomas said. “I really didn’t understand the true benefit of such coaching until later in life. I’m sure our children will experience similar growth opportunities with this new facility.”

The Pottle family has donated $400,000 to the project. That ensures the fields will continue to be named after the family as it was when the complex was completed in 2008. Chelsea Pottle Demmons represented the family at Monday’s ceremony.

Work has begun on upgrades to the athletic fields at Hermon High School. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Barry Pottle is a Hermon High School graduate and former school committee member who was president and CEO of Pottle’s Transportation until the company was sold to a Canadian trucking firm last year.

Thomas praised his fellow committee members, including: Brian Walsh, principal of Hermon High School; Scott Perkins, economic development director for Hermon; Town Manager Joshua Berry; School Committee members Jesse Keith and Hailey Keezer; and resident Deb Farnham.

He also said that Michael Byram, vice chair of the committee and the general manager of Showcase Excavation, had experience in construction that played an important role in getting them to this point in the project.

 “I will close by thanking all the residents and taxpayers who believed in this project and provided overwhelming support at the ballot box,” Thomas said Monday. “You will not be disappointed.”