WATERVILLE — A $101 million Harold Alfond Foundation grant to Colby College will help support downtown’s economic revitalization efforts as well as development of the $200 million athletics and recreation center, Colby President David A. Greene announced Thursday.

The Colby grant is part of the $500 million the Alfond Foundation has awarded to Maine institutions.

Greene said Thursday in a phone interview that $80 million of the $101 million Colby received will be used for the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center on the Mayflower Hill campus.

The remainder of the grant, $21 million, will be used for ongoing revitalization efforts in downtown Waterville, adding to $84 million worth of previous investments Colby has made in the city.

Those investments include the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, the Lockwood Hotel, the future Paul J. Schupf Art Center and a planned Arts Collaborative.

In 2016, the Alfond Foundation, headed up by Greg Powell, chairman of the Alfond board of directors, announced a $10 million startup grant that was matched by Colby, and that was the beginning of the downtown revitalization efforts. Afterward, others, including downtown businessman Bill Mitchell, Colby alumnus Justin DePre and his family, Matt Hancock, the Hathaway Creative Center and other entities invested in downtown buildings and projects.

“Having a sustainable partner like the Harold Alfond Foundation makes all the difference in the world,” Greene said Thursday. “They’ve been spectacular. Greg Powell is amazing. He is a force for good in the world. He carries on such a great family tradition. He really feels the responsibility of carrying out Harold Alfond’s wishes and goals, and he does it beautifully.”

A worker is seen in the reflection of downtown artwork Thursday in the window of Colby College’s Lockwood Hotel, under construction in Waterville. The hotel is adjacent to the Collaborative Arts building that Colby is creating. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Greene said Alfond and his wife, Dorothy “Bibby” Levine Alfond, loved Waterville and Colby and were supportive of athletics and children. He said he thinks the Alfonds would be pleased with the projects that have been launched.

“I think they would both be incredibly proud,” he said.

The Alfonds — Dorothy was a member of the Colby Class of 1938 — began their legacy to the college with a gift in 1955 to Colby’s first ice rink, according to a Colby news release. That gift positioned Colby for competitive success and led to the college’s being a founding member of the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

The Foundation, it says, continues the Alfonds’ commitment to the state, Waterville and Colby, it says.

“The Harold Alfond Foundation and the Alfond family have made an indelible mark, not only on Colby, but on this region and the entire state of Maine,” Greene says in the release. “What I love most about the foundation’s philanthropy is how it directly benefits the people of Maine while at the same time fostering connections between the grantees and their communities. That is certainly true at Colby, where the people of this area will experience the long-lasting impact as the downtown revitalization efforts come fully to fruition and as we are able to welcome our community into the beautiful Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center.”

The Alfond Foundation has long supported Waterville and Central Maine through grants and challenges to the Alfond Youth & Community Center, Thomas College, Educare Central Maine, the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, Colby and others, the release says.

The most recent Alfond funding is a major part of Colby’s “Dare Northward” campaign, the largest such campaign in liberal arts college history, according to Colby. Nearly $555 million has been raised of the $750 million goal.

ARTS AND ATHLETICS

The Paul J. Schupf Art Center to break ground next year will help expand the Colby College Museum of Art by featuring a new gallery of contemporary art downtown. The $80 million Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts is slated to be built on the Colby campus, with an expected opening in the fall of 2023.

“Waterville will soon have a diverse set of flexible, multipurpose spaces for art and cultural programming that will enrich life in the city by attracting internationally recognized and emerging artists, support access to world-class performances and exhibits, and provide new opportunities for creative expression for all of our community members,” Colby’s Diamond Family Director of the Arts Teresa McKinney, said. “Just as vital, the arts can be an economic driver in Waterville and are a core component of the community’s revitalization.”

The new, state-of-the-art Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center is another example of Colby’s and the Alfond Foundation’s ongoing commitment to excellence and supporting students in pursuit of their goals, according to the release.

“The Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center honors Harold Alfond and the profound impact of his philanthropy. The new three-story, 354,000-square-foot facility, which opened this fall, will play a key role in providing all students with the opportunity to lead active and healthy lifestyles, which is a critical component of the Colby experience,” the release says.

Window work is done Thursday at Colby College’s Lockwood Hotel, left, and at an adjacent building at the right that Colby is turning into a Collaborative Arts space. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The center is an extension of Colby’s mission to develop and educate students and help them compete in and out of the classroom to achieve excellence in all areas of their lives, according to Mike Wisecup, vice president and Harold Alfond Director of Athletics.

“One of the most unique elements about this facility is that all the athletic and recreation venues are together, which brings members of our community together, whether they are training for varsity competition, practicing yoga, or learning to rock climb,” said Tiffany Lomax, Colby’s first director of recreation services.

Colby officials say the new center will be an important part of Colby’s commitment to drive the economic resurgence of Waterville and central Maine.

“To that end, the ability to eventually invite more teams and events to campus — from NESCAC to international competitions — will have a significant positive impact on the local economy,” the release says. “Just as important, once the pandemic is contained, the center will expand on Colby’s long history of being a partner, steward and resource for community events, including youth competition and practice.”

“This was always the core intent of the building’s namesake, Harold Alfond, and Colby will continue to honor that purpose,” Wisecup said.

A worker climbs the new staircase that leads to the Front Street entrance to Colby College’s Lockwood Hotel on Thursday in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Greene said Thursday in the phone interview that the Colby community is using the center now. The amount of space allows for 100 cardio machines, and people are able to stay 14 feet apart. The former athletic center, to be demolished this fall, had nine treadmills, he said.

Greene said his biggest disappointment is that the community is unable to come in to see and use the center due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“But getting to that is the next stage — I can’t wait for that to happen,” he said.

When major conferences are held and teams come to the center, they and their families will stay in hotels, eat, shop and recreate here, helping to boost the Waterville economy, and Colby is thrilled to be part of that, according to Greene.

Revitalization efforts, he said, have been a true partnership of the city, businesses, arts advocates, Colby and others working together, he said.

“I’m so glad that the city has been so supportive of this, and it has allowed so many investors to come along,” he said.

An exterior shot of the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center, which opened in fall 2020. Photo submitted by Colby College

DOWNTOWN PROJECTS

Greene said Thursday that the hotel project is going well and the restaurant, Front & Main, on the north side of the hotel, is close to completion.

“Our hope is that we will open the restaurant, maybe, in February,” he said. “It really depends on what the situation is in Maine and whether you can open a restaurant and have indoor dining. We’re actually interviewing executive chefs right now for the restaurant. The finishes are starting to be put on. The ceiling is in, the bar. It really is going to be a stunning restaurant.”

The work by Colby and Waterville Creates! to raise between $18 and $20 million for the Paul J. Schupf Art Center is going well also.

“The good news is, we are in shooting distance of that number right now, and we plan to be in the ground on that project next spring,” Greene said. “It will open in the fall of 2022, which is really exciting. That’s such a critical project for downtown, right in the center of Main Street. That building will signify life and dynamism and something new, while holding on to Waterville’s great past.”

The center will be like “Waterville’s living room,” a destination place where people can meet, talk, spend time, and enjoy art and film, according to Greene.

“I love that project and what it will represent for Waterville,” Greene said.

The yoga studio at the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center at Colby College in September. Photo submitted by Colby College

The reconstruction of Castonguay Square, next to that building, and City Hall will begin once the art center is completed.

The Arts Collaborative at 18 Main St. is scheduled to open in April 2021. The doors of the building literally will open up onto Main Street to welcome patrons in.

“You start to see this incredible arts ecosystem we will be developing in Waterville,” Greene said.

The city received a $7.37 million federal BUILD grant that will be used toward an $11.294 million downtown project to change the traffic flow on Main and Front streets from one way to two-way, improve sidewalks and intersections, reconfigure parking and do landscaping.

Colby and private donors pitched in $1.5 million for the project, the city provided $1 million and the state, $1.3 million.

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