A proposed renovation of Cameron Stadium in Bangor that would include a multiuse artificial turf facility and an eight-lane track is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Bangor City Council member Dan Tremble said outgoing Superintendent Betsy Webb and the Bangor School Committee have put forth a proposal that would ask Bangor voters to approve a bond issue for the project, which is estimated at $2.8 million.
The proposal’s first reading is scheduled for the next city council meeting on Monday. A second reading, including debate and questions about the proposal, will be held at the Aug. 24 council meeting, where a vote will determine whether the bond issue is placed on the November ballot.
Discussion about a Cameron Stadium overhaul facility began in 2010, when Bangor announced a campaign to raise $7 million for improvements to the football field and track. The renovated grandstand was completed in 2013 after work had been done on the locker rooms beneath it.
That ended the first $1.65 million phase of the overall project, which was financed through a $1.2 million bond, the Cameron Stadium contingency fund and money raised by The Friends of Cameron Stadium, a nonprofit group.
“It definitely needs to be done. This has gone on for too long,” Tremble said.
If approved, work could begin as early as next spring. The facility would be used by Bangor High School’s soccer, football, field hockey, lacrosse and track and field teams and would be made available to other community organizations.
Artificial turf would provide a cleaner and more consistent surface for practices and competitions, while a new track would replace the six-lane version that is in disrepair.
At a Bangor City Council meeting last December during which Webb introduced a plan for the upgrades, Bangor High coaches, athletes and parents turned out to support renovating Cameron Stadium. Track and field athlete Hannah Sherwood said the track is not safe.
“We need to invest in our athletic facilities if we’re still going to be a top-draw community,” Bangor city councillor Ben Sprague said.
Webb in December said that Oak Point Associates, a Biddeford-based architectural firm that did a feasibility study for the city, suggested that such a project should be done as soon as possible. She said the facility upgrade should be among the priorities for city facilities.
Cameron Stadium, located behind the William S. Cohen Middle School between Garland Street and Mt. Hope Avenue, includes a grass football field and the track. The existing grass fields used for Bangor High soccer, field hockey and lacrosse are located at the high school on Broadway.
Cameron Stadium and Bangor High School are 2.6 miles apart.
Because the track is six lanes instead of eight, Bangor has been unable to hold any championship-level track meets. Penobscot Valley Conference schools are reluctant to use it for meets because it is in such disrepair.
Many Maine communities have artificial turf fields. Those in Greater Bangor include Hampden Academy, which in 2018 resurfaced its artificial turf field first built in 2004. The school has routinely hosted soccer and field hockey regional and state championship games in addition to HA athletic events.
Brewer also is in the process of raising money for a $4.5 million multisport artificial turf facility on the land that includes Heddericg Field, the high school baseball diamond.
Brewer is raising the money through private donations, although Brewer athletics administrator Dave Utterback said they have put fundraising efforts on hold until the dust settles from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our athletic fields are in danger of slipping behind our neighbors and when people decide where they want to live, the quality of facilities is a key variable,” Sprague said. “We don’t just want to keep pace. We want to strive to excel. And we’re at risk of falling behind if we don’t make upgrades.”
Even though the pandemic has done serious damage to the economy, Tremble and Sprague both said the Cameron Stadium project would be a valuable investment. They pointed out that low interest rates are available now that would benefit the project.
“We would get a significant savings. It’s a good time to invest in this type of facilities project,” Sprague said.
Tremble grew up in Bangor and said that he was always proud of Bangor’s facilities, but that it’s time to restore that community pride.
The councilors said a renovated facility that could host special events such as a state championship track meet or game would benefit a wide variety of businesses like hotels, restaurants and stores.