As I walked into USM Athletic Director Al Bean’s office last week, pictures adorned the wall, a bat leaned against the far wall with a furry USM Husky golf head cover over the knob and a graduate assistant and an intern were hard at work.
Below me I felt my foot drag on a what seemed like an ultra thick rug, but after looking down, I realized it was a 4-foot by 3-foot cutout of FieldTurf, the popular playing surface that thousands of high schools and colleges all over the country have gravitated to in recent years.
“I wanted to put sand and rubber in it, make it look as realistic as possible,” Bean joked, referring to the large mounds of cryogenic rubber and silica sand that are poured over a FieldTurf field to provide that extra padding that concrete-hard artificial turf failed to ever do.
I walked over and sat down in a navy blue plastic stadium-style flip down seat — one like you would claim at any sports stadium with the matching ticket stub — and looked up at painted and framed aerial picture of USM’s athletic facilities, complete with cutout views of the insides of Costello Gymnasium, the USM Ice Arena and the field house. In the picture you can see the grass surface behind Costello Gymnasium which the men’s and women’s soccer teams have played their games on since 1998. Shortly after our talk I walked down to that area of campus and saw exactly where that FieldTurf cutout in Bean’s office came from — and where that stadium seat will soon be.
What was once USM’s soccer field is now Hannaford Field, a $1.16 million multi-purpose FieldTurf surface that opened in early September after three months of construction. It will be used for field hockey, soccer, lacrosse and flag football intramurals as well as an early-season practice facility for USM’s baseball and softball teams. Hannaford Field is just one in a long line of steps that Bean and the USM athletic department are making in an initiative to improve its facilities and profile, and it’s a big step at that.
“This is a huge thing for us,” Bean said. “It has been our top priority to get a turf field on campus for our teams, and everyone involved with USM athletics is very excited about it.”
Talks of the a FieldTurf surface at USM began in 2008, when Bean came in contact with Brad Wise, the senior vice president of human resources at Hannaford and a 1991 USM Athletic Hall of Fame inductee for his play with the men’s soccer team and baseball team in the early to mid ‘80s.
Bean had been talking with Wise and Hannaford — who try to prioritize their contributions to all UMaine System schools — and worked toward a request for significant contribution for a turf field, and after three years, they came to an agreement of $250,000.
But in order to complete a project of this size, there had to be more money coming in than that, so Bean and the athletic department used that three year period to fundraise, and, luckily, received multiple gifts from generous alumni, fans and businesses.
“It was tremendous what everyone did for us during this process, and it ended being a huge help,” Bean said.
Bean got an email one day about eight grants that the U.S. Soccer Foundation was giving that could amount up to $200,000. He applied for it and unexpectedly wound up getting the full $200,000.
“To be honest I didn’t know much about it when I first got the email, but I kept looking at it and figured ‘why not apply?’ Between the U.S. soccer grant and Hannaford’s gift, [that] was nearly half of what we needed right there. It was huge.”
Other gifts started coming in from $100 up to $25,000 — the amount donated by the Narragansett Number One Foundation, a charitable foundation dedicated to helping public charities in Maine, according to its website.
On top of that, Bean added some revenue that he had saved for the project, and USM President Selma Botman contributed a generous donation of her own in the project’s latter stages to help move it along.
Hannford Field opened for use earlier this month after being worked on since early June by Shaw Brothers Construction Company and the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
The official grand opening of the field will be on Oct. 22, and Botman will be cutting the ribbon.