Construction is underway on a $4.3 million athletic complex renovation at Kennebunk High School. The renovation will include an artificial turf field, a new track, new bleachers and lights. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Years in the planning, Kennebunk High’s new $4.3 million outdoor athletic complex is well into the construction phase.

“For me, it’s been an eight-year journey. I started working on this project my second year here as the athletic director,” said Joe Schwartzman.

When the actual site work began in June around the old, natural turf football field with its notoriously poor drainage, Schwartzman said he was “ecstatic and overjoyed.”

Highlighting the project will be a full-sized artificial turf field, a new six-lane track – with eight lanes for sprint events – new lights and light poles, and new bleachers that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The complex will address both needs and safety issues, said RSU 21 school board chair Art Leblanc, and in the past year has garnered significant public support.

“Two years ago, we said it was time to fix this, and I think the community understood and also, they understood that we had a real plan, a really good plan, that would meet the needs in an appropriate and fiscally appropriate way,” Leblanc said.


In June, voters approved a previous budget meeting resolution to transfer $2.8 million from the school district’s existing fund balance to the athletic complex project. Previously, $1.4 million in surplus funds from school renovation projects, plus $250,000 earmarked for a new outdoor track, had been set aside for the complex. In addition, a capital campaign with a goal of raising $250,000 in donations has been successful.

“That was to help cover some of the costs and reduce the burden on taxpayers, and I’m pleased to say we will exceed that goal,” Leblanc said.

While renovations are ongoing this fall at Kennebunk High’s athletic complex, the varsity football team will play its home games at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field. The new artificial turf field should be ready for lacrosse season next spring, but the track won’t be finished until June. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

In the past, Schwartzman said he had to strictly limit the use of the natural turf field, in large part because of the drainage issues. The field hockey team never used it. And often, if the fall season was rainy, the field wasn’t ready for spring lacrosse games.

Schwartzman noted that in 2018, the field was in such disrepair by November that two home football playoff games had to be moved to Biddeford, including the Class B South final against rival Marshwood, “and even that following spring, we couldn’t use it and had to move all the lacrosse games to our back fields.”

The artificial surface will allow for much greater use by both high school and youth teams, including the high school field hockey teams. Also, both soccer and lacrosse will now be played on what Schwartzman termed a “right-sized” field.

“In the past, we met the minimum width for soccer and girls’ lacrosse, but we didn’t meet what I view as recommended,” Schwartzman said. “Especially for soccer, when you play on a smaller field, it impacts the game. And now we’re going to be able to get field hockey, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse and football all on the stadium field.


“It provides a lot more equity, because everyone can play on it,” Schwartzman added.

Because of holes in the old track, Kennebunk hasn’t hosted a meet in four years. The bleachers, which were recycled after they had outlived their usefulness in Woburn, Massachusetts, were installed in 2006 and were deemed “not structurally sound” in 2013. Since then, they have required annual case-by-case repairs. The light poles, donated in 1988, had similarly become unsound, in part because of woodpecker damage.

Construction of the turf field, the base layers for the track and installation of lights are scheduled to be completed in November, Schwartzman said, with the possibility of bleachers and a new press box also finished before winter. The rubberized top layer of the track requires warm weather, so it won’t be finished until next June.

“We’ll be able to use the track for practices next spring but won’t be able to host a meet,” he said.

This fall, the soccer and field hockey teams will use existing grass fields on school grounds. Football will play its varsity home games at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field on Saturdays, with all sub-varsity games on the road.

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