Two of the state’s prominent athletic fields – Waterhouse Field in Biddeford and Deering High’s Memorial Field – will have new artificial surfaces in time for the fall sports season.

At Waterhouse, the installation of synthetic turf started Tuesday and is expected to be finished Aug. 23. It is the almost-finishing touch on a community-driven renovation project that has modernized a facility temporarily closed last year when the bleachers were deemed unsafe.

“Seeing that turf started this week is a pretty remarkable feeling because we’ve come so far in 18 months,” said Jeremy Ray, Biddeford’s superintendent of schools. “Waterhouse will always be known as a historic and iconic field that is associated a lot with football, but we now have this opportunity to provide equity for all of our fall and spring athletic teams.”

The first varsity game at Waterhouse is scheduled on Aug. 31, when the field hockey team hosts Deering. Biddeford’s field hockey team has never played at Waterhouse.

“It’s huge. It didn’t really hit me until we started writing down that it will be our inaugural season at Waterhouse,” said Caitlin Albert, Biddeford’s field hockey coach. “It’s symbolic. It’s Waterhouse, probably one of the most historic stadiums in Maine.”

In Portland, Memorial Field’s old synthetic surface, installed in 2007, will be torn up starting Friday. The new multi-sport surface is expected to be ready for use in time for Deering’s Aug. 31 football game with Thornton Academy. The Memorial Field project, which includes some minor improvements to the grounds around the field, will cost $722,000, according to Ethan Owens, Portland’s assistant parks director.

Memorial Field is home to Deering’s football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse teams and also is heavily used by other organizations, which rent the space.

In Biddeford, the school had to make a decision to replace the existing grass field with an artificial surface. Walton said after a deliberate period of discussions and public forums, it became clear that synthetic turf would allow for greater and more equitable use of a facility known primarily as a football stadium. Voters approved the $750,000 synthetic turf expenditure in June.

Last fall, Waterhouse was in a transition phase. Its condemned metal and wooden bleachers, once capable of seating up to 6,000, had been torn down. New lights were installed in time for the football season opener and temporary bleachers were brought in, though many fans chose to stand.

Since then, permanent bleachers and a scoreboard with video capability have been installed.

“The second phase is really the turf and the groundwork around the facility, and that’s nearing conclusion,” said Biddeford Athletic Director Dennis Walton.

Both Waterhouse and Memorial fields are installing “Ironturf,” made by Greenfields, a global company headquartered in The Netherlands. Saco-based Northeast Turf is in charge of installation at both sites.

Owens said Ironturf’s 10-year warranty is two years greater than the industry standard, and an upgrade of the Greenfields’ product installed at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium in 2016.

The filler around the synthetic grass fibers at both fields, called infill, will be a combination of sand and crumb rubber.

In 2014, an NBC News report suggested a link between crumb rubber and cancer cases among soccer players. Since then, several studies have shown no evidence that crumb rubber, made from recycled tires, is carcinogenic.

“There definitely was concern over the carcinogens, but when you look at all the studies that have been done, by everyone from the state of New York to the (Center for Disease Controls), no one has found any link whatsoever to the infill and cancer,” Owens said. “We didn’t really think about using Nike Grind, or ground-up cork. We decided to stay with the same rubber and sand infill we have been using.”

Freeport and Sanford will also be using new artificial fields this fall. Freeport’s field was part of a project that included an outdoor track. Sanford’s move to its $102 million high school has been delayed by construction issues.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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