Steve Vanidestine has lived in Bangor his entire life.
The oldest of Thomas and Mary Vanidestine’s five children grew up on Dartmouth Street, about a half-mile from the former Garland Street Field, the home of Bangor High School football.
Vanidestine, now 68, remembers going to what is now J. Henry Cameron Stadium to watch Bangor High stars such as the late Leroy Patterson and Gabby Price. He also was a standout football and baseball player for the Rams and played football at the University of Maine.
Vanidestine, who taught and coached football at Bangor High and directed Bangor’s American Legion baseball team, is in his 37th year as the school’s athletic administrator.
He cares deeply about the school and the community and is deeply invested in what he calls his city pride.
That is why Vanidestine has been a catalyst behind the push to upgrade the Cameron Stadium complex located behind Cohen Middle School on Garland Street.
Outgoing Bangor Superintendent of Schools Betsy Webb and the Bangor School Committee submitted a proposal to the Bangor City Council to put a $2.8 million renovation project on the Nov. 3 ballot as a bond issue and the council approved it last month.
If supported by Bangor voters, the project will include an eight-lane, all-weather track to replace the dilapidated six-lane track, and an artificial turf field to replace the grass surface on the football field.
The addition of artificial turf would turn the field into a multi-sport facility that could be used for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse in addition to football.
“This is a huge opportunity for us to make a significant impact on the whole community,” Vanidestine said. “This will serve so many young athletes, youth teams, as well as middle school and high school teams.”
It also will enable Bangor to bid to host regional and state championship events that will bring people to Bangor and help boost the local economy.
If the referendum passes, Vanidestine would like to start the renovation next spring and host the inaugural football, soccer and field hockey games at Cameron Stadium in late October 2021.
Lacrosse and outdoor track and field are spring sports.
Vanidestine said the dialogue about the renovations began back in 2000 and involved him and Superintendent of Schools Jim Doughty.
However, he said managing a school budget made it difficult to take on such a major project.
In 2013, Bangor did, with the help of some private fundraising, complete the first phase of the long-term plan. The grandstand was replaced with bleacher seating for 2,800 and included a new press box, the stadium lights and electrical system and addressed handicapped accessibility issues.
Four years later, Bangor added locker room facilities behind the grandstand so the team didn’t have to change at the high school before busing over to Cameron Stadium.
Vanidestine said he is grateful to Webb, the Bangor School Committee and the City Council for supporting the project.
“This is something that is very much needed,” Vanidestine said.
He believes this is a particularly good time to take on the renovation because of the difficult times stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. He said Bangor citizens need something positive and uplifting.
Vanidestine stressed that it is time that Bangor have an aritififcial turf facility that many of its opponents already have. It is the third largest high school in the state behind Thornton Academy in Saco and Lewiston, both of which have turf fields and all-weather tracks.
Closer to home, Hampden Academy has had an artificial turf field since 2004 and replaced the turf and upgraded the lights in 2018 through an $850,000 bond issue. The school has hosted numerous regional and state championship soccer and field hockey games.
The Brewer Community School track has been the site of state meets.
During Vanidestine’s tenure, Bangor High teams have won 73 state championships. He thinks the upgraded facility would be a nice legacy.
“Every championship has been different and every one of them has been special. I’ve had the opportunity to work with four or five hall of fame coaches. But to get this done and to get it running smoothly would make me happy,” Vanidestine said.
He knows financial times are tough but pointed out this is a favorable time to borrow money because of low interest rates.
All of Bangor’s fall sports teams play on grass fields which can be problematic if they are overused or there are weather issues that affect the surface.
Vanidestine said youth soccer teams could have three games going on simultaneous across the Cameron Stadium artificial turf surface.
Vanidestine and wife Paula have two sons, Joe and Steven, and could eventually have the opportunity to watch grandsons Carter, 8, and Evan, 5, play on the new field if the bond issue is approved on Nov. 3.