OAKLAND — The RSU 18 school board will decide Wednesday whether to hand a proposed $3.83 million renovation to the Messalonskee High School athletic complex over to voters in November.

The project would include an abundance of upgrades at the school, including: An eight-lane track, replacing the grass field used exclusively for football with multi-sport artificial turf, upgrading lighting and renovating the grandstand area to bring it into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The construction of such a complex would turn Messalonskee into central Maine’s gold standard for high school athletic facilities.

The Messalonskee All Sports Boosters has already spent nearly $35,000 to assess the feasibility of such a project, according to organization president Lisa Burton.

Sebago Technics was hired over the winter to test the area, as well as produce cost estimates and artist renderings.

“To me, it’s a win-win for everybody,” said Burton, who added that 40 percent of Messalonskee’s student population participates in a varsity sport that would be directly impacted by the renovations. “It would be huge for our entire community. Everybody deserves a safe place to play, walk and recreate. There’s something for everybody.”

School board members are being asked to put the project on the November ballot for voters, funding the massive renovation through a bond.


Burton estimates the cost to local taxpayers would be between three and four cents per $100,000 of property value. She said, depending on the length of the bond the school board would approve, she expects it would cost roughly $1 per month for taxpayers. However, the project is expected to stir some debate in the district.

“I think it should be up to the voters on this,” Burton said. “Everyone says there’s a need, but now it’s just whether they want to put their money where their mouth is.”

In 2013, the school received a grant from the University of Maine to do a feasibility study and determine what it might cost to make significant upgrades. And while that study only led to further discussions, a sub-committee of the boosters began working on the project. Sebago Technics was brought in as a means of establishing whether the original numbers were still accurate.

Burton said that Messalonskee athletic director Tom Hill, coaches and students at the school have all been involved in the conversations to this point.

The discussion originally centered around a 26-item “wish list” compiled by Hill detailing athletic department needs, ranging from a new scorer’s table for basketball games to softball field and tennis court upgrades.

Safety concerns for athletes on an uneven dirt track and an overused football and lacrosse field, as well as for spectators trying to get to and from seats along a steep hill at games, topped the list of issues.


“We’re rolling the dice in a lot of areas that could come back to bite us,” Hill said.

Nearly 100 track and field athletes, and dozens more on boys and girls lacrosse teams in the spring, are practicing off-site.

“We have things like handicap access, students taking private vehicles to practices,” Hill said. “That’s not a good situation.”

Burton envisions a new, state-of-the-art complex that plays home to football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls lacrosse and the Messalonskee track and field teams. It would also allow the school district’s towns to offer more in the way of youth sports, including youth track and field and soccer, among others.

“If you come to Messalonskee, you’re pretty unimpressed,” Burton said. “Right now, only one boys sport (football) can play under the lights on a Friday night. We have some kids who never have a game at home, and they should. We’re a really tight-knit community, and our athletes deserve that.”

The girls lacrosse team, which has been to three straight Class A state championship games, plays its home games at Thomas College because of field issues at the school, Hill said.


“There is a reason (to do this) for everybody,” said Burton. “We really looked at how we could get the biggest value out of the project. We wanted to make it an investment, we wanted to get something that’s really going to last a long time.”

“It would be such an addition to our school and to the whole community,” Hill added of the project. “That’s the big thing. It would give a lot of pride for our own teams, not always having to jump off-site to play. It would be nice for our community and our school community.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621


Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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