The University of Southern Maine is going to light up its outdoor athletic facilities in Gorham.

USM announced Monday that it will be adding lights to Hannaford Field, Ed Flaherty Field and the USM Softball Stadium.

Construction will begin in late May and the first night contest will be played on Aug. 31 at 6:30 p.m., a men’s soccer game against Westfield State.

“This is very big for us,” said USM Athletic Director Al Bean. “It really puts us in a good place in terms of not just our own programs, but the ability to host tournaments and championships. We haven’t been able to put in a bid for an NCAA tournament for a while because we didn’t have lights.

“As our other programs improve, it gives us that ability. It also allows us to look to increase more community use, gives us an expansion of practice time and playing times. It opens the door for a lot of new opportunities.”

According to a press release, the project was funded by a combination of fundraising efforts and university funds. Bean said the project will cost about $1.5 million, the majority of that coming from the university.

“We’ve been trying to raise money for lights for about five years and it’s been a tough road,” said Bean. “The (USM) president (Glenn Cummings) and his staff really stepped up and said this is something we need and invested in it.”

Four light poles will be added to Hannaford Field, home to USM’s men’s and women’s soccer teams, men’s and women’s lacrosse teams and field hockey. Six light poles will be added to the softball stadium and eight light poles to Ed Flaherty Field.

While the lights will allow USM to bid for NCAA tournaments and host Little East Conference tournaments without worrying about darkness suspending play, they will also allow USM to possibly take in revenue from nonuniversity programs, summer camps and other rentals.

“We intend to make the fields available to some outside use,” said Bean. “Hopefully we could have summer leagues that have not been able to play there, baseball, soccer, softball. There are lots of opportunities there.

“And I wouldn’t mind sometime if we became the home field for a New England Collegiate Baseball League team. That would be great.”

In a press release, Cummings said, “The installation of lights on our playing fields is an important and exciting upgrade to our Gorham campus. I’m thrilled that this will enhance the student experience here at USM, as well as provide new opportunities for area schools and athletic leagues to play under the lights. This is a win-win for USM and the community.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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