The University of Maine is expected Friday morning to announce a major gift to support the Memorial Gymnasium and Alfond Arena restoration projects.

The gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation reportedly will total $5.5 million — $3.5 million for improvements to the hockey facility and $2 million toward the gymnasium building renovations.

The university said in a press release the gift is one of the largest in UMaine history.

Details will be announced Friday at 10:30 a.m. in the lobby of Memorial Gymnasium on UMaine’s Orono campus.

UMaine President Robert Kennedy and interim athletic director Steve Abbott will announce the gift, with several Black Bear coaches, UMaine administrators and staff expected to participate.

The Alfond family has been a generous benefactor of UMaine athletics, having donated millions of dollars for the initial construction and renovations to Alfond Arena, the construction of the Harold Alfond Sports Stadium and matching fundraising grants for Black Bear football.

UMaine athletics is in the midst of an approximately $14 million fundraising campaign to renovate the Memorial Gymnasium and adjoining facilities. Of that amount, $7 million has been earmarked in the form of a 10-year UMaine revenue bond that was approved by the Legislature in April.

The bond was OK’d primarily because of the need to remove hazardous materials from the gym and field house. Asbestos and mercury are present in the building. Those and other changes will bring the facility into compliance with health and safety codes.

The Memorial Gym improvements will feature a new basketball facility and surrounding offices for athletic department employees, along with the training room and academic center. UMaine’s basketball teams have been playing their home games in Alfond Arena for several years, despite seldom having the chance to practice on their home court.

St. Agatha native Dick Collins, a UMaine alumnus (Class of 1959) and former Bears basketball player, initially got the project moving with a $1 million donation back in 2007.

Fundraising for improvements at Alfond Arena have been kept largely under wraps since men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead began looking for some financial assistance earlier this year.

The arena, construction on which was originally finished in 1976, has also apparently been in need of some infrastructure improvements. Those include several items that would bring the building up to code for safety and accessibility.

Alfond Arena also is expected to be refitted with seating on the lower level, the chiller mechanism that maintains the ice, the dehumidifying system and cooling units.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...