LEWISTON, Maine — The 28th annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic will return to the site of the event’s debut when it is played this summer at Hill Stadium on the campus of Thornton Academy in Saco.
This year’s game is set for a 4 p.m. kickoff Saturday, July 15.
The all-star game, a charity event to raise funds for The Shriners’ Hospitals for Children that features the state’s top high school senior football players and cheerleaders from the previous season, had been held at historic Waterhouse Field in Biddeford for the past 25 years.
But with the recent condemnation of the bleachers at Waterhouse Field, organizers were forced to scramble to find a new location for this year’s game.
“We were pretty overwhelmed by the number of schools across the state that stepped up and said, ‘have it here,’ or were willing to help in any way that they could,” Joe Hersom, a member of the Lobster Bowl’s board of governors, said.
Thornton Academy’s proximity to Biddeford and other Lobster Bowl-related events was among the factors that led to the decision to move this year’s game to the artificial turf at Hill Stadium.
“Thornton Academy really pulled some things together as far as it being just down the road and making sense logistically,” Hersom said. “They were really the first school we had conversations with, and then we sat down and considered all the options to see what made the most sense for the game and the overall goal of the game, and that was Thornton Academy.”
Another factor was Hill Stadium’s ability to handle a large crowd, as Lobster Bowl games held at Waterhouse Field often drew 4,000 spectators or more. Hersom said Hill Stadium can accommodate up to 4,700 people.
“Those places are few and far between in Maine to be able to have something of that size without having to go to the college level and paying some sort of fee that goes with that,” Hersom said.
“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better field in the state than at Thornton other than the (University of New England) or UMaine’s, but as far as a high school-level field it’s probably the best you’re going to find.”
Thornton Academy hosted the inaugural Lobster Bowl in 1991 and the 1992 game was played on Alumni Field at the University of Maine in Orono before the event was moved to Biddeford a year later.
Hersom said Lobster Bowl officials hope to return the game to Waterhouse Field in 2018.
“That’s our plan moving forward,” Hersom said. “We’re going to continue to plan that in 2018 we’ll be back at Waterhouse Field.
“Now we don’t know what their goal is, whether they’re going to redo the whole field or just do new bleachers there and the timeline that goes with that project. If they decide to rebuild the field and put serious investment into it then we’re probably not going to be there in 2018, but we don’t know that yet.”
Approximately 90 players from around the state will begin preparation for this year’s contest during a weeklong pregame camp to be held July 10-14 at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft.