Hoops tournament raising funds for Lincoln rec center

Posted March 22, 2009, at 8:46 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:01 a.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Wendy Hayes thought her Old Town YMCA boys basketball team was just about out of gas.

The East Millinocket-Medway All Stars had her team down 22 points at halftime in the Lincoln Recreation Department’s seventh annual Invitational Basketball Tournament.

But Hayes’ team rallied, slowly chipping away at the Katahdin team’s lead, nevertheless still losing 48-41. Yet Hayes was OK with it.

“This is our first time in this tournament, and we had some good games,” Hayes said Sunday. “We had five games, and two of them were playoffs. That’s a lot, but it’s fun. It’s a good tournament. The kids get to travel around and meet new kids and form friendships.”

The tournament also gives the best players a glimpse into their futures, Old Town coach Reggie Coulombe said.

“These are the kids that my team is going to be playing against their whole high school careers,” Coulombe said.

Held at Mattanawcook Junior High School and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln on Saturday and Sunday, the tourney raised several thousand dollars for Lincoln’s proposed recreation center off Route 6, said Shelly Crosby, one of the tourney organizers.

Thirteen teams from towns around Penobscot County competed in the town’s largest fundraiser for the center, one more than last year. About 30 volunteers donated 35 hours each to make the tournament successful, said Nancy Gioud, a program coordinator for the town’s fifth- and sixth-grade boys and girls travel teams, which participated in the tournament.

Well over $400,000 has been raised since the Lincoln Community Recreational Center Trust Fund was created in 2002. The project’s biggest boost came when residents Addison Furrow Jr. and his mother, Sandra, sold the land for the center to the town in June 2007 at what town officials called a generously low price, $95,000, thanks to the Furrows’ desire to help create the facility.

Yet the project has remained largely dormant since then, partly because town workers can’t devote much time to it. Ron Weatherbee, the town’s Recreation Department director, is a teacher who works for the department after school and full-time during school vacations. Crosby is the town’s events coordinator.

Though heartened by Town Manager Lisa Goodwin’s declaration Friday that she would like to see the land cleared and used this year for a skating rink, Gioud called the project’s lack of progress frustrating.

“I believe that we have enough money raised so that we can start seeking grants and start getting townspeople motivated to do this, but we need to see some progress — and we’re not seeing any,” Gioud said.

Gioud blamed the Town Council for not doing more to support the project.

“The Recreation Committee is doing what it can,” she said. “It’s not a lack of effort from the recreation director or from Shelly. She’s been working hard. The leadership has to come from further up. I have been doing this tournament for six or seven years now, and it’s getting frustrating to work this hard on it and not see anything else happening.”

After working the tourney on Saturday, Weatherbee was out of town for most of Sunday morning and could not be reached for comment. Council Chairman Steve Clay did not return a message seeking comment on Sunday.

Center construction is expected to cost several million dollars with one estimate placing the expense at $6.7 million for a fully equipped center. Councilors have expressed a desire to pare center designs to make construction less costly.

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