ORONO, Maine — University of Maine indoor/outdoor track and cross country coach Mark Lech said he is looking forward to the renovation of the school’s field house, which has already begun with the gutting of the old field house.
“My feet won’t stick to the floor any more,” quipped Lech.
Maine athletic director Steve Abbott and associate AD for internal operations Will Biberstein addressed the media Thursday afternoon to outline the renovation and progress.
Abbott said the project started on March 31 by stripping the interior of the building, and after taking a week off during graduation week, the renovation phase has resumed.
It will be renamed the New Balance Field House because New Balance gave the university a $5 million gift for the renovation in May 2011.
The field house is expected to be completed on Oct. 15, according to Abbott.
PC Construction of Portland is tasked with the field house and Memorial Gym renovations for a total price tag of $15 million.
The field house project will include replacing the track and infield surface, updating the electrical, mechanical and ventilation systems that have been in place since the field house was built in 1926, cleaning and painting the interior, improving access to the facility and the construction of a new west entrance for the building. That is the side facing the Alfond Arena.
The current surface was installed in 1973.
Abbott pointed out that the ceiling hasn’t been painted since 1926 and they will also install indoor bathrooms which is “something that has been sorely lacking” as the only facilities available are in Memorial Gym.
“We will also have seating for the athletes and fans. We haven’t figured out how many as yet but it will be 300-500,” he said. “We’re also going to landscape out by the new entrance. And the interior, functionally, is going to be so much better for putting on track meets and special events.
“This is a very important project,” stressed Abbott. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Memorial Gym facelift will also begin because it is connected to the field house.
Biberstein said they want the new entrance and entry way to be “symbolic” and represent what the two “iconic buildings: [the field house and Memorial Gym]” have meant to the student-athletes and the community.
“When you proceed down the hallway, you’re going to run into an elevator shaft that will take you to the top of the Pit [Memorial Gym],” said Biberstein.
The field house will continue to serve a number of purposes.
In addition to being used for the track programs at Maine, it is also used as a training facility for all of Maine’s varsity teams as well as for intramurals and club sports, holds Eastern Maine Indoor Track League meets for high school teams, and also used for crafts fairs, college fairs and a number of other events.
Lech said the track had been 218 meters but the new one will be 190 meters to comply with new NCAA regulations.
“Under the new rules passed this past year, if you have a banked track that is over 200 meters, it is illegal for NCAA qualifying purposes,” he said.
The track will have four lanes.
“Having six lanes would have been perfect but, unfortunately, all we can fit in there is four lanes,” said Lech who, nevertheless, sees nothing but positives.
“There will be a much nicer ambiance to it and it will be a lot warmer,” he said.
Lech and Abbott both said the facility will help recruiting.
Lech said when they bring a recruit on campus, the first view of it will be “an awe type of thing. It’s going to be a lot brighter.”
“It’s going to be a huge help for us,” said Abbott. “This will be comparable to the other facilities we have.”
The Memorial Gym renovation is next on the docket.
“We want it to be a very good practice facility with great locker rooms. We want it to give us an edge in recruiting and give the student-athletes the best possible experience,” said Abbott.
Abbott said he expects the men’s and women’s basketball teams to play their home games at the new $65 million Cross Insurance Center in Bangor next season. The Cross Insurance Center is replacing the Bangor Auditorium.
Abbott is negotiating the deal with Global Spectrum, which is running the Cross Insurance Center.
“We’re hoping to get that done this summer. We’re very much looking forward to playing our games there. We just need to work out the details. We’re very much committed to getting that gone and the Global Spectrum people are as well,” said Abbott.