Construction continues at Fuller Field at Cony Middle and High School in Augusta. The playing field inside the Taylor Harmon Track is being prepared for laying down a field turf surface later this year. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Both Cony High School and Gardiner Area High School were hoping to begin the school year with their fall sports teams playing on new artificial turf fields. As the season approaches, it’s looking more and more likely that they are going to have to wait.

Both Fuller — formerly known as Alumni Field in Augusta — and Hoch Field in Gardiner have run into delays with the construction of their new facilities, and both are facing long odds to be ready by the start of the season with preseason practices and scrimmages looming. Both schools have already made plans for their soccer and football teams to play their preseason games elsewhere.

In Gardiner, athletic director Nate Stubbert declined to comment on the project’s progress, while principal Chad Kempton referred comment to MSAD 11 superintendent Pat Hopkins. Hopkins provided a two-sentence statement on the district’s plan with HERA, the company that is supposed to be providing the turf, but declined to go into further detail.

“MSAD 11 is seeking legal advice on HERA’s obligation under the turf field contract and the district’s legal rights and options,” Hopkins wrote. “The MSAD 11 School Board remains committed to having a turf field installed as soon as possible.”

According to Gardiner football coach Pat Munzing, all of the earth work and building has taken place — ground breaking started in January — and all that’s left is for the turf surface to go on. That’s where the project has stalled, however, as a surface that was supposed to be in place months ago has still not been delivered.

“We’ve had several delays,” Munzing said. “I know that the initial plan was that, right after school was done, they were ready. So it’s been at least two months that that field has been ready for turf.”

According to Cony athletic director Jon Millett, the delay in Fuller Field’s construction was due to a supply issue with drain piping, which arrived last Tuesday a month later than scheduled. He also said there’s no certainty the field will have lights by Oct. 1.

“I think that most of us have had realistic expectations that there could be problems, and that they’re going to do their best to navigate through them,” Millett said. “I don’t think anybody’s discouraged or anything. We’ve learned from COVID to just adapt to whatever comes up. There are things you can’t control, and the supply issue was one of them.”

Gardiner’s Hoch Field remains under construction. The playing field inside the track has been prepared for laying down a field turf surface later this year. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Millett said on Wednesday that the next stages were for the piping to be finished, for concrete to be poured in and for the surface to be prepared for the installation of the turf, which is scheduled to arrive by the end of August and will be the last step. Millett said the chances of the field being ready for the start of the season — Sept. 1 was the original target — are slim.

“I don’t see it happening,” he said.

He said, however, that Field Turf Inc., the construction company building the field, has a contractual obligation to be done by Oct. 1, and that that deadline is still looking good.

“They’re fast and they’re efficient at what they do,” Millett said. “I’ve been told they’ll probably still come in and finish ahead of what they’ve promised us, even with this delay, because they’re that good.”

At Gardiner, Munzing said he’s hopeful that the issue gets resolved soon, but isn’t confident it will.

“My thoughts are, right now, if we’re playing football on a turf field it’s on someone else’s turf field,” he said. “…It’s tough looking at it, being like ‘We’re so close.'”

Munzing said the community has grown restless as well.

Construction continues on the new playing field at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I get peppered with parents and kids and community members looking forward to how exciting this was,” he said. “And now it’s kind of nothing. I think that’s where we’ve kind of stalled out, and it’s not (due to) any part of what Nate or Chad or the district has done.”

Both schools have been exploring contingency plans. At Cony, which still has its normal field hockey field and the CARA soccer fields available, Millett said the football team is planning to start by using Messalonskee’s turf field.

“All of our home games right now for varsity are scheduled to be played at Messalonskee High School, in the event that our field is not completed,” he said. “We’re playing a few Friday night games, but we’re playing some Saturdays in the afternoons.”

Gardiner needs venues for football and soccer, as the field by the Boys and Girls Club adjacent to the school went under repair as well. According to Munzing, the soccer teams will play their preseason games at Winthrop High School, while football on Monday got word that its preseason scrimmage that was going to be played on Hoch Field will be moved to Belfast. He said he hasn’t heard word yet regarding changes to regular season games.

“I just know that they needed like 10 days to get the turf down,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to show up tomorrow, I just know they need 10 days. So I’m looking at our schedule for Sept. 3 and saying ‘OK, back that up 10 days, can they get this thing rolled out, can we get on it?'”

Given how last season went with the pandemic, however, Munzing said he and his team aren’t picky.

“Any other time, this would be a difficult thing,” he said. “We don’t care if we have to play in a cow pasture. We’ll go wherever we need to to get our kids on a field and playing.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.