Jacob Dwelley, right, and his mother Sue talk with Central Maine Community College softball coach Bruce Robertson about the sports programs Thursday morning during an open house at the Auburn college. Dwelley, from Lincoln, is interested in the soccer program but the coaches were not available at the time so he went over the process for signing up for the soccer program. At left are other CMCC coaches and players waiting to talk to visitors. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Athletic director Dave Gonyea is weary of hearing that Central Maine Community College is the best kept secret in the Twin Cities.

Gonyea and CMCC staff members were on hand Thursday during an open house to greet the public, get the word out and showcase the college’s new athletic facilities.

“One of the things I have heard a lot during my time at the college is the compliment that, ‘Boy, you folks are the best-kept secret in town,’” Gonyea said, “and I have heard that a lot. We don’t want to be the best-kept secret anymore.”

Coaches, visiting college-bound students and athletic directors were part of the foot traffic that toured the campus.

“Inviting the difference-makers, athletic influencers, the people that coach and athletic directors and show the athletic community who have not been here to see the upgrades,” he said. “The new turf facility, the new esports arena, the renovated basketball facility (are to show) that we are not just your typical community college.

“I wanted to really get people on campus to see it first-hand. So they (can) go back to their schools and they go back to talking with kids (and) they would say, ‘Hey, you really need to check that place out. It is not quite what you think it would be.’”

Poland athletic director Don King, Leavitt AD Ryan LaRoche and Edward Little football coach Dave Sterling were among the many checking out the Mustangs’ sports facilities.

“I am here to check out the new athletic facilities and to see what there is to offer students from my school who maybe interested in coming here,” LaRoche said. “I think a lot of the athletes I know that come here, definitely students who have come here, benefitted tremendously from the programs.”

Andrew Morong, left, Central Maine Commuinty College Director of Admissions and High School Relations, and the school’s women’s basketball coach, talks with Thornton Academy athletic director Gary Stevens, right, during Thursday’s open house at the Auburn college’s campus as he stops in the esports facility in Kirk Hall. Listening, middle, is CMCC Esports Coordinator Dustin West. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Aaron Card of Oxford, an Oxford Hills graduate, also checked out CMCC and was impressed.

“I looked at the campus and it is a pretty big campus, and I wanted to make more friends that weren’t necessarily from my area,” Card, who wants to play soccer for the Mustangs, said.

Three CMCC students, who were passing through the lobby outside the gym, all praised the Mustangs’ classes and athletic programs.

Abby Ferland of Monmouth plays softball for the Mustangs and just finished a two-year curriculum in life science, and now she will be going into the school’s nursing program.

“Honestly, before I toured, I didn’t know what to expect,” Ferland said. “But once I toured here, I kind of fell in love with it.”

Maddy Boynton is from China, Maine, and has been playing softball for the Mustangs. She enjoys the small-town feel of CMCC.

“Honestly, my softball coach recruited me,” Boynton explained. “I wasn’t too sure where I wanted to go for college. He recruited me. I took a tour and I really loved it here. Community colleges — it is family. You really become this whole family. You get to know everybody who is around you in the dorms.” 

Makayla Gross of Farmington pitches for the CMCC softball team.

“It just feels like the entire team is close. All of this is great,” Gross said.

COST-EFFECTIVE LEARNING

Gonyea talked about the low costs of attending CMCC and the college’s curriculum that continues to earn a strong reputation.

“It is $1,800 bucks a semester,” Gonyea said. “Who can’t afford $1,800 a semester? Now we have kids graduating from our programs and they are walking out and making six figures with a two-year education.”

Gonyea noted it took time and a lot of cash to renovate and build state-of-the-art facilities. 

“Our new turf facility I think is second  to none in the area,” he said. “One, it is lit. Two, we have press boxes on both softball and baseball. We are in the process of building batting cages for both sides — visitors and home. This year we are live broadcasting all of our sports with announcers in a very professional atmosphere.

“Right now, we broadcast hockey and we broadcast men’s and women’s basketball. This year we are adding volleyball, the two soccers, baseball, softball to the mix as well. Inside, we did some renovations to the esports arena. And in the gym, we have done some neat renovations. We have a new court, new bleachers (and) a beautiful videotron, and we have done some painting and cosmetic work.”

Gonyea said improvements continue to the baseball/softball complex and that CMCC would like to host Maine Principals’ Association events. The college also wants to run summer tournaments from different leagues.

“Frankly, (we are) turning our complex into an economic driver for Auburn,” he said. “I am very much involved in sports tourism and I think we can fulfill a role in that. We want to bring tournaments and events to Auburn— and CM is willing to step up and host some of these.

“The part that I like best is our school is very, very frugal. Now, I have been here 28 years. It took us 27 to get a ball field. We saved and saved and saved. If one looks at the tuition at $3,500 a year, you can see there is not a lot of money rolling in the doors here. We are not $40,000, $45,000 school that can afford these complexes. Taxpayers have to be part of that, and fortunately the community colleges in Maine are very popular.”

He added that graduates from community colleges “run the economy” because of the curriculums these schools offer.

“We impact a lot of daily citizenry on a daily basis,” he said. “If you go to a hospital, chances are you are going to have a nurse that went to a community college. I think the future is really bright (for CMCC).”

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