Houlton Maliseets to build athletic facilities with $600,000 federal grant

Posted Sept. 20, 2011, at 5:04 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Officials with the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians are hoping to improve the health of their community and offer local athletes additional sports venues thanks to a significant federal grant.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $600,000 in grant funding to the Maliseets through its Indian Community Development Block Grant Program.

The money will be used to construct football and baseball fields and an athletic track on tribal lands.

Tribal Chief Brenda Commander announced news of the award late last week and tribal officials said on Monday that the new fields and track should be completed by next summer.

At this point, the Maliseets do not have regulation-size playing fields or a track. While the 800 or so tribal members have a gymnasium and a nature trail that is used by walkers, they do not have an athletic track.

The tribe will contribute $150,000 as a match for the grant, mostly through land value and in-kind services, according to Commander.

At this point, the tribe has a small field that is used for practice by members of the Houlton Knights football team. The team is part of the flourishing Aroostook Football league, which features eight-man teams and more than 225 players from Aroostook County and New Brunswick. The field is not regulation.

The new complex likely will be constructed on land near the tribe’s housing development, with the track surrounding the football field.

The new facilities primarily will be used by tribal members, but officials also plan to open them up to the Knights team and to the ball teams at Greater Houlton Christian Academy. The academy does not have its own playing facilities.

Both GHCA and the Knights are expected to help the tribe maintain the fields.

The tribe also will use the land and facilities for winter sports.

The federal Indian Community Development Block Grant Program was established in 1977 to help tribes and Alaska Native villages meet community development needs. Recipients of the competitive grants use the funding to rehabilitate housing, build new housing or buy land to support new housing construction. The funding also can be used to build roads, water and sewer facilities, or community and health centers.

“These funds will help American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments create sustainable and community-driven solutions,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a written statement. “Housing and infrastructure needs are severe and widespread. I’m inspired by the work the tribal communities are taking on to leverage these funds and get their communities on the right track.”

The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians has been federally recognized as a government by the United States since October 1980.

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