Making room to grow, Thomas College nears completion of new athletic center

WATERVILLE — Thomas College is nearing completion of a new 18,000-square-foot sports complex that will offer more amenities for student-athletes while catching the attention of prospective students.

The sports center is scheduled to open this fall, and school officials offered a tour Thursday of the building, which overlooks the college’s two turf fields — Bernatchez Field and Smith Field — that extend toward the western banks of the Kennebec River.

What officials did not offer was the cost to build the complex or what it will be named. The college has said construction is being partially funded by a fundraising campaign that brought in more than $30 million.

Workers from EL Vining & Son Inc. of Farmington work Thursday on the area surrounding the new Thomas College Athletic Center in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The complex is to have four home team locker rooms, two locker rooms for visiting teams and a tunnel to the athletic fields.

Lauren Bartlett, a graduate of Thomas College and now a graduate student at the school, said she was impressed with how the building is coming together. Even the smaller locker rooms in the building are much larger than the current ones at the Alfond Athletic Center. Bartlett played for the Thomas lacrosse and soccer teams.

“It’s a great feeling to know that we’re almost there,” she said.

An NCAA Division III school, Thomas has 18 varsity teams and about 400 student-athletes — about 40% of the student body — at its campus at 180 West River Road, according to athletic director Christopher Parsons. Included in the varsity teams is eSports, where students compete in online games, including Rocket League or League of Legends.

The eSports team is to have an expanded area that allows for more than a dozen additional players to compete at a time. Plans also call for the athletic center to include office space, an equipment room, a training room, a weight room and room for events.

The building is not meant to replace the Alfond Athletic Center, Parsons said. The Alfond center was designed for use by the full student body, not just athletes, and as the college has expanded, it has outgrown the facility. The new complex is meant to be used in addition to the Alfond center.

“We’ve been at full capacity over there because of the growth of athletics,” Parsons said, “so this building is going to be an addition to that.”

Lauren Bartlett, a recent Thomas College graduate and returning master’s candidate, tours the Thomas College Athletic Center in Waterville as construction continues Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

There is still plenty of construction work going on at the facility, but things are starting to come together. Some walls are being painted in the college’s red, black and white colors. On the second floor, drywall is going up and windows are being installed.

Randy Kervin, the project manager with Sheridan Construction Corp. of Fairfield, said work is progressing despite running into some issues with obtaining materials. With supply chain issues, it can take time to get certain items needed for the building, creating a bottleneck. For example, if workers are waiting to place a duct into the ceiling, they cannot install the ceiling material, which prevents them from doing the floors.

The design of the building is unique and meant to stand out from other colleges, according to Parsons.

“We have created something that totally stands on its own within the state,” he said. “I don’t know another athletic facility that would accommodate two turf fields side by side, with the athletic facility above that, with a tunnel coming out.”

Athletic director Chris Parsons looks towards the athletic fields Thursday from the balcony of the new Thomas College Athletic Center in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel


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