UMaine unveils $110 million plan to upgrade athletic facilities

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Mike Lowe, Portland Press Herald, Maine
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Feb. 17—The University of Maine unveiled details Wednesday of a $110 million project to upgrade athletic facilities at its Orono campus over the next decade — including a new basketball facility, and enhancements to the football field and hockey arena.

The project is fueled primarily by a $90 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation announced in October, part of a $240 million gift over 10-12 years to the UMaine system. The athletic department will raise the remaining $20 million over the next 10 years through private donations.

The $90 million gift is the largest single contribution for athletics at a public college in New England and is among the largest gifts ever nationwide, according the university.

"For many years our athletes have been performing in outdated and even crumbling, cramped facilities," said UMaine athletic director Ken Ralph. "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."

The women's soccer, field hockey and softball facilities will receive new turf fields and Mahaney Diamond, home to the baseball team, also will receive an upgrade. In addition, the plan includes construction of an indoor facility that will include a 100-yard artificial turf field and a 300-meter track.

Ralpj said he hoped the facilities would be used by high school athletes and other schools in the UMaine system.

"We are also using this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to equity and to show our dedication to making Orono the go-to destination for sports in Maine for athletes of all ages. Our students, our fans, and the local community have waited a long time for these improvements, and we are excited to get started."

The Alfond Foundation is named after philanthropist Harold Alfond, who had a long history of supporting education and athletics in Maine. Alfond was the founder of the Dexter Shoe Company and died in 2007. There are athletic facilities named after Alfond on six Maine college campuses.

"Harold Alfond believed in the University of Maine, its students, and the impact of athletics," said Greg Powell, Chair of the Harold Alfond Foundation. "He would be very supportive of the direction and current leadership at the university. We are proud to continue his legacy of giving to projects that benefit Maine's universities and its people."

The transformation will begin this summer, with small upgrades made to existing facilities. Construction on new fields will begin in the summer of 2022.

Priority will be given to projects that advance gender equity like the UMaine Soccer Stadium, a modern sport-specific facility for women's soccer.

The major aspects of the project include:

— Construction of the UMaine Multipurpose Center, which will become the new home for the men's and women's basketball programs. It will include a playing court, locker rooms, offices, the Bear Necessities Fan Shop and a new sports medicine center. It will also include football locker rooms and coaches offices, as well as a new strength and conditioning center.

— New artificial turf fields for women's soccer, field hockey and softball, each including stands for fans.

— A new artificial turf surface at Mahaney Diamond, home to the baseball team, and upgrades to the clubhouse.

— Construction of a 100,000-plus square-foot domed facility called the Speed Dome. It will include a 100-yard artificial turf field and a 300-meter track.

— Construction of a second domed facility, which will have 60 percent more space than the current one on campus.

— Renovations to Memorial Gymnasium, including improvements to Wallace Pool. That will include new locker rooms for swimming and diving, field hockey, softball, and women's soccer, as well as upgrades to staff offices, and extensive additions to the internal branding of the building.

— Renovations to Alfond Stadium, home to the football team, including a new artificial surface on Morse Field. The existing track will be removed and bleachers moved closer to the field.

— Upgrades to Alfond Arena, home to the school's ice hockey teams, including an enlarged entryway and concourse and installation of high definition video and ribbon boards, and the expansion of the Shawn Walsh Hockey Center, including new locker rooms for the men's and women's ice hockey teams and a new strength and conditioning center.

This story will be updated.