The University of Maine’s upgrade of three outdoor athletic facilities is on schedule, according to Will Biberstein, the school’s assistant athletic director of internal operations.
“Right now, everything appears to be in good shape. Obviously, there’s a chance cold weather could hamper it, but we can’t control that,” Biberstein said. “It looks like they’re going to hit their target completion dates.”
“The [new] field hockey surface is down but there is still a lot of finishing touches left to be done,” said Biberstein, referring to the addition of light poles, lights and fencing around the perimeter of the facility which will be located directly behind the softball complex.
It also will be used by UMaine’s recreation and intramural programs.
The field hockey field has a surface similar to the AstroTurf that was used on Morse Field, where Maine previously played both football and field hockey.
Morse Field is switching over to a more grass-like surface, FieldTurf, and Biberstein said that transformation is well under way.
“They’ve started putting the turf down. They had already done a lot of grading and prep work to get it ready [for the installation of the FieldTurf]. They had 40 yards of it down [early Wednesday evening],” said Biberstein. “They also had the big ‘M’ at midfield.
“They’re making great progress. Hopefully, it will finish right on time in early August,” said Biberstein.
He also noted the facility will have the portion of the chain link fence at the end nearest to the Memorial Gym replaced by wrought iron fencing.
“We want to create more of a college stadium atmosphere,” said Biberstein.
Mahaney Diamond, where the Bears play baseball, will also get FieldTurf but Biberstein said “we’re still trying to finalize the contract. Hopefully, we’ll get that finalized and get moving on the project in the very near future. We’d like to have it ready by the spring season. That’s our goal.”
He said the facility improvements won’t just benefit the student-athletes, they will also benefit the students and recreational sports clubs.
The facility upgrades are expected to cost $2.2 million. A $1 million gift from Phillip and Susan (Keene) Morse through the Boston Red Sox Foundation made the improvements possible. The remaining $1.2 million is going to be raised from internal loans which will be repaid from athletic revenues and/or future gifts, along with some UMaine recreation funds.
In 1998, the Morses donated $2.15 million for the playing surface, scoreboard and lights at Morse Field.
Maine adds second game vs. UNB
The UMaine men’s hockey team will play two exhibition games against the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in October instead of the one they had originally scheduled.
“You’re allowed to go on a foreign tour every four years and one game is considered a tour, so we figured we might as well play two,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Maine will play UNB Oct. 10 and Oct. 11 with each game slated for a 6 p.m. faceoff (Eastern time).
UNB went 43-4-1 a year ago and lost to the University of Alberta 3-2 in the Canadian national championship game.
The Varsity Reds beat Maine 2-1 in Orono and also bested the University of New Hampshire.
The Varsity Reds won the national title the previous season.
UNB will also host defending NCAA champion Boston College at the Aitken Centre Jan. 2-3, 2009.
“We’re going to have a real young team so we might as well gain some experience. This will be a great challenge for us. They should have a great team coming back,” said Whitehead.
By playing two games, Whitehead said, “We’ll be able to test both of our goalies and get guys on the ice who might not normally play.”
Maine will open its season the following weekend in Fairbanks, Alaska, against Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks in the Alaskan Gold Rush Tournament.