Bangor High School triple and long jumper Alyssa Elliott said that during practices at Cameron Stadium, members of the outdoor track-and-field team often mess around with the eroding rubberized surface.
“There is a piece of the track [surface] that has fallen off. You can peel back the track,” Elliott said.
“It’s not safe,” Bangor sophomore Hannah Sherwood added.
Elliott and Sherwood were among several Bangor High athletes, along with school coaches and parents, who attended Wednesday night’s Bangor City Council meeting. They turned out to support a proposed $2.5 million renovation introduced by Betsy Webb, Bangor’s superintendent of schools.
The plan would provide Bangor with a new, eight-lane, all-weather track and a multi-use artificial turf field at Cameron Stadium, located behind the William S. Cohen School on Garland Street.
The push for such a facility began in 2010, when Bangor announced a campaign to raise $7 million for improvements to the football field and six-lane track at Cameron Stadium. The renovated grandstand was completed in 2013 after work had already been done on the locker rooms beneath it.
That ended the first, $1.65 million phase of the overall project, and it was financed through a $1.2 million bond approved by the City Council along with the Cameron Stadium contingency fund and money raised by The Friends of Cameron Stadium, a nonprofit group.
In July, Webb revealed the recommendations made by Oak Point Associates, a Biddeford-based architectural firm, that studied a potential infrastructure makeover of Bangor school facilities. Those possibilities included building an athletics facility on city-owned land on Griffin Road.
The upgrades discussed on Wednesday would benefit athletes competing in football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse, as well as track and field.
Webb said the project is necessary and should be put at the top of the priority list. However, at this early stage, it is unclear from where the funds for the project will come and what the timetable might be.
She said the money could be raised by private donations or through a bond.
Bangor High sophomore quarterback Max Clark is among the students who would welcome the improvements.
“It is a step forward. It would benefit the whole community,” Clark said.
Clark said Cameron Stadium’s grass surface is generally good, but is much less forgiving when it freezes.
“I’m excited because they are finally taking a look at the track,” said Elliott, the high school jumper.
“Being able to hold state meets or a New England meet will help the economy,” she added.
All of Bangor High School’s game fields — located at the Cameron Stadium, at the high school and at Mansfield Stadium — have grass surfaces. The track is in disrepair and only has six lanes, which means championship meets cannot be held there.
Several Maine communities have artificial turf fields including Hampden Academy, which resurfaced its facility in 2018 at a cost of $850,000.
The architects hired to do a feasibility study said the whole project should be done at once, beginning with the installation of the artificial turf field so the new track wouldn’t get damaged by the heavy equipment needed to do the site work, according to Webb.
Councilors Ben Sprague and Dan Tremble were among those who spoke about the need for a new facility.
It was pointed out that the 500 youngsters who participate in the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department’s soccer program for children in kindergarten through fifth grade could benefit from a new field.
Sprague said the upgraded facility would enable the city to host events that would boost the economy by bringing people to Bangor.
“There would be a significant return on our investment,” Sprague said.
Bangor girls soccer coach Andrew Varisco was pleased with the turnout and the tone of Wednesday’s discussion.
“There was a great turnout of parents and students. The school committee seems to be in support of it. This has been coming for a while,” Varisco said.
“This would benefit not only the high school teams, but it would also benefit the middle schools, the youth sports,” he said.
Bangor High football and baseball head coach Dave Morris was encouraged by the support for the proposed upgrades.
“It is the right thing to do, and this is the right time,” Morris said. “It was great to see all the players, coaches and parents here.”
Morris said a renovated Cameron Stadium would provide a first-class facility that would help attract more sports participants.
“Our community deserves it,” Morris said.