Barring any unanticipated problems, the University of Maine’s New Balance Field House is scheduled to open on Saturday morning.
That’s when the Penobscot Valley Conference-Eastern Maine Indoor Track League is slated to inaugurate the renovated facility with its first home regular-season meets of the season.
After nearly nine months of work, the nearly $5 million renovation of the field house is nearing completion, according to Seth Woodcock, UMaine interim athletic director.
“We have crews working double and triple overtime here to get this thing ready for Saturday,” Woodcock said Thursday afternoon. “We’re in full expectation to have a meet here Saturday for the high school kids.”
Work on final details was to continue Thursday and Friday, and Woodcock said there are a few minor areas that were of concern as the project — the first phase of a $14 million overhaul of the field house and Memorial Gym buildings — comes to a close.
Mary Cady, director of the PVC-EMITL, toured the field house on Thursday.
“The kids and the fans, they’ll walk in and they’re going to say, ‘wow, this is amazing!’” said Cady, who is thrilled track and field athletes will be able to compete in such an impressive facility.
“It is truly beautiful,” said added. “The track and the infield surface, the dark blue and the light blue, is gorgeous. It’s bright. It’s clean.”
Woodcock said he is excited the facility will again be able to serve the needs of UMaine student-athletes and staff, as well as people in the community.
“We want to get those kids in there,” he said.
The PVC-EMITL will have the honor of conducting the first competition inside the building, which has received a comprehensive overhaul that includes a new rubberized track and infield complete with two long jump/triple jump runways.
Competitors from 17 high school teams are expected to be in action during one of two conference meets on Saturday.
Bucksport, Central of Corinth, Ellsworth, Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft, Hermon, Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, Old Town and Sumner of East Sullivan open the day with a 9:40 a.m. meet.
Seven other teams convene for the second half of the doubleheader scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. That section will include Bangor, Brewer, Hampden Academy, John Bapst of Bangor, Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor and Orono.
Fans should plan to arrive at the first session no earlier than 9:15 a.m., while those attending the second meet will be allowed in at 1:30 p.m.
Cady explained that to access the field house, fans must enter through the main entrance of Memorial Gymnasium, go around the gym on the right-hand side, and take a right at the end of the hallway. The entrance is on the left, near the ROTC wing.
The PVC-EMITL has been hamstrung this winter without the use of a suitable facility to conduct practices and meets as field house construction took longer than anticipated. It was to have begun competitions in December, but now will have only two full weekends of regular-season meets before holding its league championship on Feb. 8.
In the meantime, league teams have been able to compete at meets in central and southern Maine with teams from the Southern Maine Activities Association.
All PVC-EMITL teams were invited to compete in a meet Jan. 11 at Colby College in Waterville, but that was canceled because of bad weather. Most of the teams were able to compete at a meet on Monday at Bates College in Lewiston.
Athletes and fans alike will notice a dramatic improvement in lighting inside the New Balance Field House, which has been repainted and equipped with new lighting and air exchangers.
Fans who once were relegated to sitting or standing inside the infield now will be able to sit in bleachers on the east end of the field house adjacent to one corner of the track.
Woodcock said UMaine student-athletes are expected to begin practicing in the field house for the first time early next week.
He said the university likely will hold a media event sometime next week to help get the word out that the New Balance Field House is open for business.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Penobscot Valley Conference-Eastern Maine Indoor Track League teams competed this month with schools from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. PVC-EMITL teams did compete alongside teams from the Southern Maine Activities Association.