There will be a cozy atmosphere at Ritchie Field for a unique Homecoming football game between Maine Maritime Academy and Bridgewater State University Saturday in Castine.
The bleachers that were leveled by 200-year-old elm trees which were blown down on top of them during a wild storm a year ago were eventually removed as well as the press box. The press box was part of the structure.
They used part of the facility throughout last fall before tearing it down this past spring.
MMA athletic director Jim Dyer and sports information specialist/women’s basketball coach Craig Dagan are encouraging fans to bring lawn chairs to the game.
The only seating available is on the visitors sideline and that holds only 200 people, according to Dyer.
There are three motorized lifts taking the place of the press box. The Bridgewater State coaching staff will have one; the MMA staff will have another and a third will be used by the scoreboard operator and public address announcer and that is also where the game will be filmed.
The media will have tables at field level or up on the hill.
“We’re trying to create a big tailgate atmosphere. We’re closing down Pleasant Street behind the goalposts [at one end of the facility],” said Dagan. “There will be more walking around. It will be more of an intimate setting. People will be closer to the field now.
“It’s not an ideal situation but we’re trying to make the best of it until it gets fixed,” added Dagan.
Dyer said MMA will build a new stadium that will hold 1,100-1,200 next spring.
“We’re aiming for the construction to start on April 1st with a completion date of June 30th,” said Dyer. “We’re hoping to open it up for bid by mid-October.”
Dyer, the former University of Maine assistant athletic director in charge of internal operations and facilities, said the new stadium will be “very similar” to Maine’s Alfond Stadium only on a smaller scale.
“There will be aluminum decking and seating, handrails and all the amenities for the handicapped as well as a two-story press box,” said Dyer.
Academy funds and insurance money from the collapse of the bleachers will be used to pay for the project at a cost in the range of “$600,000-$700,000,” according to Dyer.
Dagan and Dyer both indicated that the disaster was a blessing because the outdated stadium, with its wooden seating, needed to be replaced.
“This is an opportunity to create a new stadium setting for us,” said Dyer. “It will enhance our athletic facilities and our campus in general.”