TOPSHAM — With unanimous site plan approval from the Planning Board on Dec. 19, construction of a new Mt. Ararat High School passed a critical hurdle toward completion in fall 2020.

New baseball and practice fields are already underway on the campus. The School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors on Aug. 3 hired Topsham-based Crooker Construction to do that work.

“We’re very pleased that we were able to get the application approved last night,” Building Committee Chairman John Hodge said Wednesday. “It allows us to go forward with the plans that we’ve been spending the last three years putting together.”

SAD 75 voters approved the school project on March 7. The cost of the base project is not to exceed $60 million, which includes $6.2 million for locally funded items that the state will not cover.

Because the new school will be built on the existing school’s competition field, construction of new fields is taking place first. That allows the school to maintain access to a multipurpose field and baseball field while construction is underway.

Mt. Ararat High School, built in 1973, will be demolished, with a $649,000 artificial turf field – the main athletic field, with a track – built on the site by 2021. A practice field between the new baseball/practice fields and the turf field will also be regraded.

Site work is to begin next spring, ramping up during the summer on the current track/competition field and the baseball field.

“Where the (competition) field is, and the parking lot, is essentially where the school’s going to go,” Hodge said. “Where the baseball field is, is essentially where the parking’s going to go.”

In cases where a dedicated sports field will be affected, Athletic Director Geoff Godo has made arrangements for alternate locations, Hodge said.

The new competition field will host a variety of sports, including football, soccer, lacrosse, track and field hockey. With different colored lines differentiating the separate sports areas, “it’ll kind of look like a mishmash, but it’s really the most effective way to get all the sports into that one prime playing area,” Hodge said.

The new baseball field has been graded, with loam spread and the infield outlined. While seeding had been aimed for last month in order to start grass growing, because of the wind and rain storm at the end of October, “we were fighting soil erosion,” he said.

Crooker has prepared the site for winter, putting down hay to prevent erosion during the season. Work will commence next spring, followed by a full season of growing. Because construction of the new school will not disrupt the existing baseball field for spring 2018 sports, the existing field could still be used, Hodge said.

The new baseball field should be ready by the spring of 2019.

More information can be found at construction.link75.org.

The impact of the new school on Main Street (Route 201), from which Eagles Way leads into the campus, was also discussed at the Dec. 19 meeting.

The town is looking into striping improvements and upgrading the sidewalk on that state road as construction occurs, Planning Director Rod Melanson said Wednesday. SAD 75 will improve a Route 201 crosswalk and pedestrian access to the site, he added.