Harold Alfond Foundation Gives Large Donation for UMaine Athletic Facilities 

It was a huge day for UMaine athletics.Two sports arenas on the UMaine campus in Orono will be vastly improved, thanks in large part to a 5-and-a-half million dollar gift Friday.Meghan Hayward reports.The Harold Alfond Foundation is giving 5 point 5 million dollars toward upgrades to the Alfond Arena and Memorial Gym and Field House.”In the arena it’s upgrading the cooling system. Our cooling system is getting quite old and without that we’d be out of a hockey program.”The upgrades at Alfond also include new seating in certain sections and an improved sound system.”The Memorial Gym and Field House is a combined project. It’ll renovate the field house with a new track and we’ve had contamination problems there. It will also allow us to upgrade ADA and weight rooms and coach’s offices. The academic advising office and of course the Pit itself.”Eventually the men and women’s basketball teams will return to the pit to play their games.They currently practice there, but play their games in the Alfond Arena.”The Pit was described in Sports Illustrated as being one of the most intimidating places to play basketball in the 50s and 60s. I think we can return that kind of atmosphere.”Basketball coach Cindy Blodgett says the renovations being made will help recruit future athletes.”Anytime you have a new facility, you’re dealing with 17 and 18-year-olds when you’re recruiting them and it is important that when they come in and see a new facility that they would like to one day play in, in front of 3,000 or 4,000 fans. It does make an impact.”Renovations to the Alfond will begin this Fall and are expected to be finished by Summer.The goal is to get the basketball teams back in the pit by the 2013/2014 season.”That’s a very ambitious goal. But we’re determined to do it and I’m positive we can succeed.”