On Wednesday, the University of Maine revealed plans for a $110 million athletic facility upgrade, primarily funded through a gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation, an organization dedicated to philanthropy in Maine.
In October, the Harold Alfond Foundation made a $500 million commitment to the community of Maine, including a $240 million donation to the University, of which $90 million will go toward upgrading athletic facilities. The remaining $20 million is up to the University to fundraise through community support. In a press conference on Wednesday, UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy expressed her gratitude and happiness in relation to the project.
“This is an truly historic day for Black Bear nation,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “We are all smiling. You can’t see it with the masks, but we are because we’re going to share with you today how the $110 million investment based on the Alfond Foundation’s extraordinary gift will upgrade our athletics facilities and allow us to make improvements to the facilities in ways that will impact all 17 of our Division I athletics programs.”
Included in the plan is the brand-new UMaine Multipurpose Center that will seat 3,000 guests. The arena will be the new facility for the Black Bears’ basketball teams which had previously been playing off campus.
Other plans are the new Athletics Speed Dome to house a 300-meter indoor track and a full-size football field, and improvements to the hockey arena, including an expanded concourse area, along with upgrades to the sound, Wi-Fi and video systems.
There will also be a new softball facility and soccer field. Ferrini-Mundy said that priority will be given to the soccer field, a move that is representative of the University’s commitment to gender equity, seeing as the University does not have a men’s soccer team.
“Inclusive excellence is a cornerstone of the [University’s] experience and I’m excited that we’re addressing these issues of gender equity, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and community access,” Ferrini-Mundy said.
According to Athletics Director Ken Ralph, this move is important for both the teams and community. At the press conference, he noted that although not everything can be completed right away, the University has set priorities for certain facilities.
“The reality is you can’t fix everything all at once in our situation, so we have to fix what we can fix and we looked at facilities as something that had to be done, but not only for the competitiveness of our teams, but also for our standing within the community,” Ralph said. “I mean, we’ve lost a lot of faith with this community by just not hosting the events that we used to host 15-20 years ago.”
Ralph said that they have crafted a plan to be of Division I caliber, but appropriately sized for the campus and community’s needs.
“We sort of have to thread that needle a little bit because everyone just assumes bigger is better, but we would rather have a high-quality facility that is simple and elegant and easy to maintain and something that’s going to operate for the next 25 years,” Ralph said.
After two and a half years of meetings and conversations, Ralph said he has an overwhelming feeling of fulfillment.
“This isn’t a concept anymore, this is happening,” Ralph said. “There’s shovels going to the ground and we’re getting this done.”