Thomas College’s new athletic facility will overlook the Bernatchez and Smith Fields at the Kennebec Savings Turf Field Complex. Rendering courtesy of Thomas College

WATERVILLE — When Thomas College athletes take either of the school’s turf fields in the fall of 2022, they will walk through a red, white and black players tunnel, pass underneath a sign that reads “Terrier Pride,” and go through a set of doors that open to an entrance with a small sculpted Terrier.

The new look is part of the college’s new athletic facility, which the college will break ground on later this year with sights on opening in the fall of 2022.

“This has been a goal for a long time, and we’re really excited that this is finally happening,” Thomas College Athletic Director and head men’s soccer coach Christopher Parsons said. “We’re going to have a home for student-athletes and it’s going to be a home for staff and coaches. We’re just excited for the opportunities.”

Funded in part by the college’s $30 million Guarantee the Future Campaign, the new athletic center would free up space in the existing Harold Alfond Athletic Center to be used by more of the campus community.

Thomas College President Laurie Lachance said the new athletic center has held a place in the college’s strategic master plan for years. The current athletic center was built in the early-2000s and will continue to serve as a space for intramural athletics and casual exercise.

“Everyone needs access to health and the opportunity for fitness in their lives,” Lachance said. “This new athletic center will open up a world of opportunities. It frees up the other space to make sure intramurals can happen all the time, the dance team can meet when they want to and you can go work out with your friends without having to wait for a team to leave.”

The new 18,000-square-foot athletic center will overlook the Bernatchez and Smith Fields at the Kennebec Savings Turf Field Complex. Long glass windows offer views of the fields from an enclosed lobby off the main entrance. A new strength and conditioning center is planned for the facility, as are coaches’ offices, an esports arena, an athletic training space and a new locker room.

Thomas College sponsors 17 men’s and women’s varsity athletic teams. Approximately 40% of the college’s students are athletes.

The college declined to release the total cost of the project, but says the time has come for a new athletics center.

“We have been making do with 1970s-era locker rooms and training space, which is absolutely minuscule,” said Lachance, who described the new space as classy but not opulent. “While we made it work, the college has grown to a point where it’s busting at the seams.”

Groundwork will start over the summer, but more visible construction will occur in the fall. There is room for a next section, perhaps a new basketball court, years down the road.

“This center lays the groundwork for growth to come,” Lachance said. “This is an exciting day for our college.”

At the Division III level, Thomas College officials tried to set the school apart from peers in previous athletic expansions. For example, the school “wanted to do something different that people didn’t have” when the turf fields went in, Parsons said. The new facility is another step in separating from the pack.

“The tunnel is something special,” said Parsons, a Thomas College alumni and former All-Conference soccer player at the school. “It’s just going to be an exciting environment.”

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