University of Maine season opener against Delaware at Alfond Stadium. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The University of Maine on Wednesday got $1 million closer to its athletics fundraising goal.

Phillip and Susan Morse, longtime financial supporters of UMaine, gave the institution a $1 million gift to directly aid UMaine’s Athletic Facilities Master Plan.

The Morses’ gift is part of the $20 million that UMaine intends to raise over the next 10 years. The money will supplement $90 million the Harold Alfond Foundation gave the institution 14 months ago to upgrade all of their athletic facilities on campus. That money was part of a larger $240 million gift to the University of Maine system.

The total raised is currently at $2.4 million, according to UMaine senior associate athletic director for development Seth Woodcock. That includes the Morse family gift and an additional $1 million gift donated by former UMaine football player Rod Sparrow for football facility upgrades.

“Our goal is to raise the money sooner than 10 years and I don’t see us slowing down after that. But we have a lot of work to do and we need a lot of help,” Woodcock said.

The Morse family has contributed nearly $5 million to support the University of Maine.

The family made a pledge of $1 million in 2007 to upgrade the school’s Morse Field playing surface at Harold Alfond Sports Stadium, and in 2013 they provided $800,000 to install the field’s high-definition video scoreboard.

The university replaced its outdated and deteriorating artificial turf surface on the football field before this season.

Woodcock said Morse and the late Harold Alfond were longtime friends and shared a vision for enhancing the athletic programs at UMaine through their philanthropy.

“Phil is like a liaison to [Alfond’s vision],” Woodcock said.

Alfond Stadium is UMaine’s football facility and Alfond Arena is home to the school’s hockey rink.

UMaine director of athletics Ken Ralph is currently working with a facilities upgrade leadership group and architects to finalize a comprehensive plan.

Woodcock said this is the first time that there has been a comprehensive plan to upgrade all of the facilities. Previously the school focused on individual projects.

“Having a comprehensive facilities plan puts us in a strong position for fundraising success,” Woodcock said.

He said they want all of the facilities to be top-notch and so they can hold high school state championship events and youth activities, and attract future students to the school.

“We want this to be a destination. We want this to be the first stop, not the last stop. We want kids to want to come to school here,” Woodcock said.

“After 57 years,  Sue and I continue our strong bond with the University of Maine that was forged in the early 1960s,” Phil Morse said. “Our current donation is just a continuation of the commitment I made to Harold Alfond back in 1997, when the idea of the joint venture for a new stadium and new synthetic field was born. Harold would be proud today. Sue, myself, and our daughter Katherine will continue to support our alma mater for years to come.”

Ralph called the Morses’ support for UMaine students “an inspiration.”

“Their generous gift will help us build best-in-class facilities for future Black Bears, and will inspire other alumni and friends of UMaine to support transformative investments and initiatives at UMaine and across the University of Maine System,” said University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.