By Cameron McAllister, Staff Writer
The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) athletics program has been without a turf since its existence, but future plans include a turf field. Supporters say Maine has unpredictable winters and the use of a turf will help spring sports get outside sooner and allow them to play more games at home. In the fall the weather includes more rain and turf fields tend to have better drainage.
Currently all of the spring sports teams are battling for practice times in the cramped Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC) and Dearborn Gymnasium. A turf would allow the FRC to open up for other activities and the teams would be outside practicing on a bigger surface. Brandon Melville, a senior of the UMF lacrosse team, said “ We wouldn’t be restrained to just the gym where space is limited.”
Athletic Director, Julie Davis, said it’s something missing and it needs to get done. “I think we have to find a way, its just gonna take longer then we want it to. It’s a missing link for our programs” However, this won’t come without any hurdles, “At this point the most logical place is down at Prescott,” said Davis.
Some of these hurdles include the fact that the Prescott area is in a flood zone, with the most important thing being that UMF doesn’t own the property. “We lease the fields and own one of them.” Davis said. Prescott field is a multi field facility that includes four fields and a softball field; the only field that UMF owns is the soccer field.
Although turf seems like a great option for UMF, grass fields still have some advantages. Both Davis talked about the effect of grass and the human body. “ It’s more forgiving on the body for the athlete.” said Davis. She also talked about the differences between the sports. Lacrosse players fall more and grass creates a softer cushion while in soccer it doesn’t as much. “A lot of coaches and players like playing on grass even though the look will be better on turf.”
With the advantages of grass there comes disadvantages as well. Meghan Hughes, a senior on the UMF field hockey team, talked about the unpredictable Maine weathers. “ They are more susceptible to weather damage therefore creating a muddy surface.”
Davis explained that the weather has always been an issue in Maine but turf fields don’t come without any hassles either. With all the snow in the winter someone has to maintain it, “ If you can maintain it then you can get out for early spring,” said Davis.
Although turf companies may explain that it saves money, Davis doesn’t know if he’s ready to jump on board just yet. “Every turf company will tell you it will, everybody that has one says its not as straight forward as that, it may save you in the short run with labor costs but there still is maintenance and they don’t last forever,” said Davis. One thing that it does create though is more revenue via recruiting. “If you’re losing top athletes that would love to come to your school based on turf, then it pays for itself that way,” said Davis.
Meghan Hughes mentioned the tough North Atlantic Conference (NAC) and how it may make the team a little better.“It would bring more competition to our school” said Hughes..
When it comes to a large project like this it is essential that the administration be in favor of the plan. “Upper administration needs to be supportive so that they can develop buy in from various stakeholders and potential donors, it also needs to fit with the University Mission and strategic plan.” said Davis.
Although at some college this may be a serious obstacle, Davis didn’t seem concerned about it, “I feel confident that this administration understands the need and value and is generally supportive.”