The Cony High School football team will host Lawrence on the new turf Fuller Field on Saturday night. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

There are no more delays. No more waiting for parts to arrive. No more complications of any sort to deal with.

The new turf surface at Cony High School’s Fuller Field is in. There will be a football game there this weekend, Saturday night at 7 p.m., under the lights, with funder Robert G. Fuller Jr. in attendance. There will be a ceremony celebrating the facility’s completion and opening on Tuesday.

This has all been in the workings for a while, of course. But where there was hope and optimism before, there’s certainty now. The new era for sports in the Capital Area isn’t just coming.

It’s here.

“The entire school and Augusta community is ecstatic about this coming to fruition,” Cony athletic director Jon Millett said. “You would be amazed at the number of requests to get on that field that I’ve already had.”

Members of the Cony sports scene had to be patient as the project’s completion date drifted from the start of the fall to the end of September, and into October. But now, frustration has given way to elation.

“There’s a real excitement about that,” Cony football coach B.L. Lippert said. “‘Did you see they put the C-O-N-Y in the endzone?’ ‘Did you see they put the numbers down today?’ If you go by the school, there’s random people pulled over out at the fence, standing and taking pictures of the field.

“It’s a pretty exciting moment for this community.”

There’s that word again. It’s no coincidence that Millett and Lippert used the word “community” to talk about the field’s arrival. At a glance, Fuller Field will be the home of the Cony football team. That will be its first use on Saturday, when the Rams host Lawrence in a game with Class B North playoff implications.

But the field’s impact goes well beyond football. Because of the new surface, Cony is hosting the state field hockey championships in November, bringing one of the biggest sports days of the calendar year to the state’s capital. And as Millett said, that might just well be the beginning. Augusta’s uniquely positioned, being basically equidistant from Bangor and Portland.

Work on the new turf Fuller Field is completed, and the Cony football team will host Lawrence on Saturday night. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The addition of a grade-A facility right in the middle of the state, with the parking that Cony has always had to accommodate the large crowds that come for track and field, cross country and softball championships, becomes a key in Maine’s postseason picture.

“I think you’ll find that we’ll be hosting a lot of MPA tournament stuff, because we are truly a central location,” Millett said. “We’re not just talking about football. We’re talking about field hockey, we’re talking about boys and girls soccer, we’re talking about boys and girls lacrosse. We’re talking about the track team, because you can’t forget we also have the new grass field up above. … There’s been a lot of planning and thought that’s gone into this.”

And yet, there’s something even greater at play with the field’s arrival. While a list of teams down south got to play on turf fields, teams in central Maine have had to deal with games in the rain and muddy slop of late October and early November.

Now, there are turf fields at Lewiston and Kents Hill, and Messalonskee joined in the spring of 2019. And with Augusta on board, and Gardiner expected to join in November, central Maine is catching up and putting itself square on the sports map.

“I think so. I think when 10 years ago we looked at it, and looked at trying to get it, I think that at that point it was kind of a luxury to have it,” Lippert said. “Now it feels like kind of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ … Even just community members that really have nothing at stake, teachers and bus drivers, everyone that sees me is like ‘The field looks great, can’t wait!’

“Maybe that excitement will wear off after a few games, a few years, I don’t know. But I think having that and knowing that it’s a place that’s going to be reliable, and kind of a point of pride in this community, is really exciting.”

There’s the word again, “community.” In addition to what Fuller Field brings to Cony’s teams now, it will likely pay dividends as the athletes of tomorrow grow up in the neighborhood.

“It could be a draw,” Lippert said. “It could be somebody moving to Augusta that’s a doctor and is going to work at a hospital, that says ‘Hey, since we live in Augusta, should we send our kids to Augusta? They’ve got the turf field, and my daughter’s a great field hockey player, so playing on that turf might be the difference between her getting a scholarship or getting D-III recognition.’

“We’re hopeful that that’s the case, but even if we’re just serving the kids that live in Augusta already, it’s just a great complex to play at, and something we’ve looked forward to for a long time. To finally have it coming to fruition on Saturday is almost hard to believe.”

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