HS Teams Forced to Scatter During Field Construction

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Copyright 2017 Sun Journal Jul 22, 2017

Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)


LEWISTON -- The fall sports season is little more than three weeks away, and Lewiston's teams are preparing for a vagabond existence as construction of their new fields continues.

Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller is pleased with the progress of the project, which broke ground in late May and includes three new fields (two with artificial turf) and a track.

"Obviously, they've gotten a lot of work done in a short period of time, and I'm feeling very positive about the direction we're going," Fuller said.

Subgrade work is nearly complete for the project, which also includes a new elementary school. Fuller hopes the fields will be completed in time for the start of the 2018 school season.

In the meantime, teams will be calling several fields around the city home, and coaches are prepared to deal with a fall season that will be far from the routine.

One thing that won't change is football will still play its home games on Friday nights, but at Bates College's Garcelon Field.

"Football is scattered," Fuller said. "Our four varsity home games will be over at Bates. All of our subvarsity games will be over at the LAP (Lewiston Athletic Park). Monday JV games won't be happening a lot on the schedule. They'll be playing a lot of Saturdays."

The football team will hold preseason practices at LAP, the Blue Devils' home before Don Roux Field. During the season, Tuesday and Wednesday practices will be held at Montello School, while Thursday practices and Friday night games will be held at Garcelon Field.

In the short term, Lewiston coach Bruce Nicholas believes playing home games (and all but one regular season game overall) on turf will benefit his team, which has a lot of speed and quickness.

In the long term, the Blue Devils are willing to put up with some inconveniences now knowing the end result will be a new, state-of-the-art home field.

"We realize it's going to be hectic for a year, year-and-a-half," Nicholas said. "But we know the end result is a new facility. For all of the hassles, there's a good reward at the end."

With five varsity and subvarsity teams, scheduling for boys' and girls' soccer required some juggling, Fuller said. The majority of practices during the season will be at Drouin Field next to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. During preseason double sessions, some practices will be held at Bates "just so we can hold two practices at the same time," Fuller said.

Games will be scattered among three sites -- Drouin Field and Bates' Russell Street Field and Garcelon Field.

Those facilities won't be completely unfamiliar. The boys have played two games at Garcelon, most recently in 2015, and practiced on it in preparation for the 2014 state championship game. They've also practiced and played summer games at Drouin.

Coach Mike McGraw said having games and practices at multiple sites will make the 2017 season more challenging, but can also help bring the team together.

"It's going to be a testament to how we can deal with adversity," he said. "I think we'll be okay. The kids are excited to be playing on turf."

Coach Brant Remington girls' soccer team will have one home game at Drouin, two at Garcelon Field (including one night game) and four at Russell Street. Being so spread out doesn't seem so bad considering some of the possible alternatives, he said.

"I was worried when this first started that we'd be stuck at elementary school fields or playing more than half of our games on the road," Remington said.

"I'm looking at it pretty positively," he added. "We've got a fairly young group, not a lot of seniors, so we've got quite a number of girls that are going to be benefiting from this for a few years."

Playing at Garcelon will be good preparation for the turf field the Blue Devils will call home when the project is completed. It's also critical to have a second field for games and practices because Drouin Field "will have wear and tear even if it's relatively good weather," McGraw said.

"Bates College has been good about giving us a little time for practice there in the preseason and opening its fields for us for a few games, which is going to take pressure off Drouin Field," McGraw said.

In a statement emailed to the Sun Journal, new Bates College Director of Athletic Jason Fein said the college is looking forward to welcoming "teams and their loyal fans to the Bates campus."

"Bates is thrilled to host athletes from Lewiston High School while their facilities are under construction this year," Fein said. "We are proud to partner with them..."

Fuller said Bates officials were eager to help Lewiston through the transition.

"They were more than accommodating," Fuller said. "I think this works really well for us."

Field hockey was the easiest sport to fit into Bates' schedule, and the Blue Devils can look forward to hosting some games under the lights this season, Fuller said.

"They have a great facility (Campus Avenue Field), and the schedules line up pretty well," he said. "We'll be able to practice right after school and then play games."

Cross country will also be affected, Fuller said. The biggest challenge is finding some place for runners to train in cross country conditions, rather than training exclusively on the road.

Aside from on-field logistics, Fuller is trying to figure out a way to recover lost revenue from gate receipts. Fans may have to pay to enter some games at Garcelon, he said.

"We're still trying to figure that out," he said. "The set-up to do something like that is pretty extensive."

It is unlikely the school will provide transportation to practices at Bates, Fuller said.

"For practices, they're on their own. We're still trying to work out some details that might fit in our bus company's schedule, and we'll see what happens," he said. "Soccer and field hockey typically don't use the locker rooms anyway."

Players will be bused to football games, and visiting teams will have to use the locker room at the high school to suit up. Some other logistical details still need to be ironed out.

Fuller is also looking ahead to the spring to accommodate baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and field and tennis. Bates has offered its facilities for use then, too, and other alternatives, such as softball returning to Randall Road, are under consideration.

"We've got some ideas in mind," Fuller said.

Credit: RANDY WHITEHOUSE, Staff Writer

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