Driving south to Falmouth last Saturday to watch three state championship soccer matches, I couldn’t help but think it won’t be soon enough before Cameron Stadium in Bangor is renovated.
Among the many reasons outlined for the $7 million project is to provide an additional artificial turf facility to host such regional and state championship events.
And as much as it made sense to move the Eastern Class A basketball tournament from the Bangor Auditorium to the Augusta Civic Center five years ago for geographic reasons — Bangor and Brewer now being the state’s northernmost Class A programs — it’s becoming apparent that Maine’s small-school divisions — particularly Class D — should have their championship contests in sports such as soccer, baseball and softball played somewhere from Augusta north.
All four Class D soccer state finalists traveled south to get to Falmouth, girls teams from Van Buren and Richmond and boys teams from Bangor Christian and Greenville.
Bangor Christian and Greenville squaring off in Falmouth? Not the most efficient use of transportation dollars, it seems.
A similar scenario played out last spring when Greenville defeated Katahdin of Stacyville in the Class D baseball state final — at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
A look at the Class D map shows that most of those schools are located well north of Portland. Having games in a suburb of the state’s largest city simply doesn’t make geographic sense.
This year’s Western Class D boys soccer field included the following schools: Greater Portland Christian, A.R. Gould of South Portland, Pine Tree Academy of Freeport, Chop Point of Woolwich, Buckfield, Richmond, Vinalhaven/North Haven, Islesboro, Rangeley, Valley of Bingham and Greenville.
The girls Western Class D soccer field was even smaller: Greater Portland Christian, Buckfield, Vinalhaven, Richmond, Rangeley and Greenville.
Compare that to Eastern Class D fields of 21 boys teams and 17 girls squads.
The Class D baseball landscape is similarly skewed to northern and central Maine, with Buckfield, Richmond and Vinalhaven/North Haven the only Western D teams south of Waterville.
Some schools can be moved from Eastern to Western Maine in order to even out the number of teams in the two regions, but it won’t change where they are located.
And the cost of travel’s high and going up.
A major issue facing organizers of these contests, particularly regarding soccer, is that northern Maine currently has a very limited number of artificial turf venues available for holding such games, particularly given that Hampden Academy already is in the current rotation with Falmouth High School and has hosted four state championship games annually for several years.
Presque Isle is ready and willing to host state soccer finals at its artificial turf facility, and has been added to the Maine Principals’ Association rotation to host games in the fifth year of the current five-year scheduling cycle, believed to be 2015.
I suggest making a more northern location the permanent site for the Class D state championships in soccer, baseball and softball as soon as possible. For baseball, and softball, there are plenty of quality fields available in the Augusta-Waterville area as well as in Greater Bangor.
As for soccer, perhaps we must wait until artificial turf comes to Cameron Stadium, but a change is crying to be made.
The same rationale that was good enough for the big boys — moving the Eastern A basketball tournament and baseball and softball finals to Augusta — should be good enough for the little guys, too.