Dave Manz and Jon Englehart left the University of Maine with degrees in their hands. They’ve returned with hardhats on.
Manz was a middle-distance runner for the UMaine cross country and track and field teams before he graduated with a degree in Construction Management in 2007. He’s come back to work on the renovation of the Memorial Gym and adjoining Field House as the project engineer for Portland-based PC Construction.
“I was excited, number one, to hear that this project was going to take place,” Manz said. “As a former athlete, you always want to have the best facility. And to hear that it was going into effect, I was glad to be a part of that. I think it’s going to be beneficial not just for the individuals but for the track program altogether.”
Englehart is PC’s intern on the project, his first since graduating with a degree in civil engineering last May. He now has the chance to continue working on the campus that has been a part of his family for generations.
“It’s something I think I’m really enjoying,” he said. “Just to have the opportunity to work on the campus that I graduated from – I spent almost five years here. My brother went to school here, my sister did and my family did, so just to improve the campus that’s had a huge part of my family’s background history is great.”
The project is the first major upgrade for the two buildings since the Field House’s inception in 1924 and Memorial Gym’s addition in 1932. This renovation, which Associate Athletic Director for Internal Operations Will Biberstein says has been in discussion for many years, is a part of a $15 million project, with $6 million of that going towards the Field House and Memorial Gym.
The money was generated by a state bond, gifts from New Balance and the Harold Alfond Foundation as well as other smaller donations. The Field House will be renamed the New Balance Field House upon completion of the project.
Manz, Englehart and their team began work in early May, and total completion of the two buildings is scheduled for fall of 2014.
Manz – who ran the half-mile, the 1,000 meter and the mile in college – says his previous experience as a track athlete who used the Field House to train on a regular basis has helped him in his role in the renovation.
“It’s really great from my perspective,” he said. “I get to come back, walk the old walk, see the old facility; and being able to update it has been great for me.
“I think having an understanding of how the track meets work and how the events work – it’s a project that I do have some background knowledge on how the overall process works,” he added. “It’s great to be able to come in and see what we’re doing and understand why, from a track perspective, why you may want to have something built a certain way. To be able to put the two sides together, personally, has been beneficial and helped me do my job.”
Biberstein says the goal of the renovation is to “bring it up to modern day” as far as electrical and mechanical services go as well as to “keep it a multi-use function facility [to provide] the best services to the students, the student-athletes and the community.”
Although final completion of the total project is scheduled for next fall, Biberstein says the Field House – which also hosts non-university events such as high school track meets and the Special Olympics – should be open by early 2014.
“Our hope is that by January, the athletes, the students and the community will be able to get back in [the Field House],” he said. “We will still have some work that needs to be ‘completed’ that will happen in the summer with the Field House, but we know how important the facility is to the student-athletes, the students on campus with all the rec programs as well as all the other on- and off-campus entities that utilize the Field House.”
According to Biberstein, the west entry to the building will be completed by February or March and the last phase – which deals with the construction and renovation of office space and locker rooms – will be completed in the fall.
Among some of the work being done are: life-safety, accessibility, structural, ventilation and electrical code upgrades; replacement of the track, athletic surface floors and roof; and the improvement of restrooms and public areas in addition to the aforementioned renovation of the offices and locker rooms.
Part of the mechanical upgrades include improved lighting and sound system, a new air-handling system and the replacement of the doorways on the north and west sides. The track size will be reduced by an approximate total of 20 meters to make room for a new seating area that Biberstein says will “add more flexibility” in terms of concerts and overflow from sporting events.
Biberstein, Manz and Englehart all say they are extremely pleased with the progress of the renovation to this point.
“Every decision we’ve made as a project team has been in the interest of the student and the university and the life of the buildings,” Biberstein said. “We’re really pleased with the project and the way it’s continued to develop throughout the process. I think people will be pretty impressed with the end product.”
“The existing facility was definitely dated,” Manz said. “It needed a facelift. This is a great time to do this project, and I think having this new facility is going to be a real eye-opening experience for everyone who uses it.”
A big goal of the project team is to make the renovation match up with the pre-existing architecture in order to keep it in line with its standing as a historic building.
For them, making sure the “Big M” is still the “Big M” when the project is done is important, but so is giving the UMaine community a facility that can benefit everyone.
“The Field House is one of the first things you see when you come on campus,” Englehart said. “Just being able to add just the west addition gives a new face to a building that’s been here a long time and just improves the campus overall for everyone, and that’s important.”