AUGUSTA — Fundraising efforts to come up with about $1.2 million to install artificial turf and make other improvements to Cony’s Alumni Field athletic complex could be $500,000 ahead of the game courtesy of a donation from a Maryland man with deep ancestral ties to Augusta.

Robert G. Fuller Jr., now of Maryland but previously of Winthrop, has made other significant donations to local organizations and funded the installation of statutes of Judge Daniel Cony at Cony High School and Melville Weston Fuller outside the Kennebec County Courthouse.

He now has offered a $500,000 donation to help fund improvements proposed to the Alumni Field athletic complex at Cony High School, but will only release the money for the project if matching funds or services are raised of the same amount.

The field is used primarily for football, but after improvements are made it is expected to also be used by numerous other student-athletes. It would also be renamed Fuller Field in recognition of the donation.

City Manager William Bridgeo said Fuller — a former attorney and captain in the United States Navy, who did not attend Cony High School —contacted him out of the blue in May and said “he was interested in trying to do something for the community he has really come to have a lot of affection for.”

Bridgeo mentioned to Fuller there were recently efforts to raise funds to make improvements to Alumni Field at Cony that could use a boost, and Fuller expressed interest in that and proposed an agreement with the city by which he’ll offer up to $500,000 in matching donations and the field will be named Fuller Field. The deal goes to city councilors for approval Thursday.

Bridgeo said Fuller and his wife Moira have a long history of contributing to numerous causes in Augusta including MaineGeneral Medical Center, Kennebec Valley YMCA, Lithgow Public Library and Kennebec Historical Society.

“It’s a great thing for the city,” Bridgeo said of the offer. “I know he’s passionate about supporting youth sports. And he’s very passionate about his ancestral community of Augusta and always has been.”

Robert Fuller, left, salutes after giving brief remarks at the opening of new Veterans Academic Center Nov. 30, 2017 at the University of Maine at Augusta. Amy Line, the school’s coordinator for veterans affairs, is at right. Fuller, is a former Navy captain, and his family foundation, The Windover Foundation, donated to the project. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Fuller is a descendant of Daniel Cony, the Revolutionary War hero and judge who founded a school for girls in 1815 that later became Cony Free High School. And also of Melville Weston Fuller, who was born in Augusta and became the eighth chief justice of the United States.

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind, chairman of an ad hoc committee working on the project to make improvements at the Cony athletic complex, said so far about $240,000 in private donations has been committed to the project. Some of those commitments, he said, are multi-year agreements, so the city doesn’t have all $240,000 on hand yet.

The proposed agreement between Fuller and the city states that once the city receives $100,000 in private donations, it will document that and Fuller would make a payment of $100,000. That process would continue, up to a total donation from Fuller of $500,000.

Bridgeo said the matching donations can also include in-kind services, such as donated work by contractors.

Lind said he and other committee members are “deeply appreciative” of Fuller’s donation.

“Our challenge is to get to the $500,000 (in matching donations),” Lind said. “We’re hoping for some in-kind donations, and the agreement does allow for that, which is very generous of Mr. Fuller, and we’re very grateful of Mr. Fuller doing this.”

Fuller, who told city officials he did not wish to speak to the media about the donation, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The agreement specifies Alumni Field would be renamed Fuller Field once $300,000 has been donated by Fuller.

Bridgeo said Alumni Field got its name after a group of alumni got together years ago to donate their money and time to build concession stands, bleachers and a press box at Cony. He said the intent would be to, after the field is renamed Fuller Field, to continue to recognize the contributions of alumni in some manner elsewhere on the Cony campus.

Taylor Harmon Track, which surrounds the football field, will be kept in place and will continue to be named for late beloved track coach Taylor Harmon.

Lind said donations to the project to improve the athletic complex may by made to Bob Moore, at Cony All Sports Boosters, at Cony High School at 60 Pierce Drive.

The centerpiece of the proposed improvements would be the replacement of the grass field at the complex with artificial turf, at a cost of about $800,000.

The football and lacrosse teams at the high school have been the primary users of the field. But advocates for installing artificial turf said doing so would dramatically increase the amount of use the field could accommodate. They said it could boost the number of hours it is likely to be used from between 300 and 350 hours a year up to more than 1,000 hours annually.

In June, city councilors approved the use of about $400,000 from three different accounts to move the project along. The biggest piece of that, $253,000, will come from a trust fund set up for the late Augusta philanthropist Elsie Viles and dedicated to Alumni Field improvements.

About $140,000 was re-appropriated to the project from funds leftover from the 2006 construction of a new Cony High School. And $5,600 was moved to the project from money that would have otherwise funded the purchase of athletic equipment.

Lind said work will start on the project as soon as the money needed for it is raised.

Muddy conditions at the field, exacerbated by an increasing amount of rain falling in central Maine in recent years, prevented the Cony lacrosse team from having any home games last season. It shut down the field for nearly any use this spring and, last year, prevented the football team from being able to host a home playoff game, despite having earned the right to do so with its 7-1 record. That game was moved to Lewiston, on artificial turf.

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