ORONO, Maine — The late Harold Alfond and the Harold Alfond Foundation have been instrumental in funding the construction and renovations of pivotal athletic facilities at the University of Maine.
The university is showing its appreciation by building something in honor of the Alfonds and their generosity.
UMaine this summer plans to complete Alfond Way, a paved, lighted walking and bicycle path that will connect most of UMaine’s athletic facilities with other buildings on the north end of the Orono campus.
“The essence of it is that it’s tying all our sports venues together,” said Will Biberstein, UMaine’s associate athletic director for internal operations, who referred to the way as “the east-west highway of the north end of campus.”
“It really is the conduit that is going to link the first-year students up at Hilltop [Complex] right down to the student entrance at Alfond Arena,” he added.
The project, the first phase of which was completed in 2011, carries a cost of approximately $370,000. Biberstein said the sidewalk is being funded mostly through a Maine Department of Transportation grant and some matching campus facilities deferred maintenance funds.
Alfond Way begins outside Alfond Arena, home of UMaine ice hockey and basketball, and goes across the parking lot to the sidewalk behind the main grandstand at Alfond Stadium, the Black Bears’ football and track facility.
The 10-foot-wide asphalt surface will wind around the stadium, past the main entrance and along the black-iron fence that borders the south end of the facility. It will take users past the new Mitchell Batting Pavilion, which is under construction, and Mahaney Clubhouse at Mahaney Diamond, UMaine’s baseball field.
It then will connect with the already completed portion of the walk that runs from the main entrance to Mahaney Diamond past the softball complex at Kessock Field and ends at the intersection of the bicycle/walking path and Gannett Road.
That in turn links with the sidewalk that goes past the tennis courts and the New Balance Student Recreation Center, all the way to the “top” of campus where first-year students are housed.
“All the students coming to attend the athletic events, or those who in the evening utilize the facilities for all the rec sports and intramural teams, they’ll have better access,” Biberstein said.
He said Alfond Way will provide a safe, lighted path for students, parents, staff and visitors covering the entire north end of campus.
Biberstein said the idea was conceived as a small project to install a sidewalk near Kessock Field that would enable players, coaches and fans to more easily access the field during the muddy spring months. From there, the larger project began to take shape.
The construction of Alfond Way will result in a few changes, including the loss of several parking spaces along the fence at Alfond Stadium/Morse Field and numerous spots in the “alley” between the field house and Mahaney Diamond.
“Unfortunately, we’re going to lose some parking,” Biberstein said. “That’s the negative, but the positive now is the students, after a game, have a lit sidewalk to walk on.”
It also should provide access and convenience for fans who park adjacent to the Mahaney Dome or in the tennis court parking lot.
Biberstein said UMaine must leave a 20-foot-wide section of asphalt in the alley to provide continued access for emergency and university service vehicles to access the back of the field house building. There will be a buffer of grass and a cobblestone swale between the road and the sidewalk.
Biberstein said the walkway, which will be plowed and maintained during the winter, is being built by the Sargent Corp. and is expected to be completed late this summer.
Alfond Arena upgrades continue
UMaine also is continuing its efforts to improve the experience inside Alfond Arena.
The university is spending $137,000 to install rubber flooring in many areas used by spectators. Biberstein said it was budgeted in last year’s renovations, but could not be completed because of the lateness of the more significant upgrades.
The flooring, like that installed in the arena’s Bear Necessities store, will be put down at the concession stand, in the main entrances and on the mezzanine level on both sides of the arena and behind the skyboxes.
“It’s going to brighten it up and instead of concrete, we’ll have a nice, sharp, clean floor that we can wax and polish,” he said.
There will be other sections measuring more than 3 feet wide that run from the basketball locker rooms on the mezzanine out to the stairs and down to ice level. They are designed to provide access for hockey players wearing skates.
Those areas previously had been covered by rugs.