2017-07-27 / News

Multiple projects in works at UNE Biddeford campus

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


The University Commons will overlook the mouth of the Saco River. The 60,000-square-foot building will be dedicated to student support services and have a fireplace on every floor. The third floor is intended to be a new main dining venue. (Grant McPherson photo) The University Commons will overlook the mouth of the Saco River. The 60,000-square-foot building will be dedicated to student support services and have a fireplace on every floor. The third floor is intended to be a new main dining venue. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – The University of New England is planning several major renovations for the coming year as the school changes leadership and assesses its role within the community.

Vice President of Operations Bill Bola said construction of a new turf field could begin this fall if all goes according to plan. Bola said the plans were approved by the city Wednesday, July 5 after being worked on for more than a year. He said plans could change based on input from the new president and athletic director.

Bola said President James Herbert started Saturday, July 1 and is becoming acquainted with the school and officials. Bola said Athletic Director Jack McDonald will retire Thursday, Aug. 31 and Assistant Director Curt Smyth will fill the role for about a month while officials search for a permanent replacement.


The Danielle N. Ripich University Commons are expected to be finished late this fall as construction was delayed by steel deliveries. The commons will house the registrar, financial services and global affairs programs as well as study space for students. Students will be able to access the library from the commons by an elevated walkway, or skybridge. (Grant McPherson photo) The Danielle N. Ripich University Commons are expected to be finished late this fall as construction was delayed by steel deliveries. The commons will house the registrar, financial services and global affairs programs as well as study space for students. Students will be able to access the library from the commons by an elevated walkway, or skybridge. (Grant McPherson photo) UNE’s 25,200 square foot turf field installed in 2010 is used by many different sports teams and a proposed new field, size to be determined, could be centered inside the outdoor recreational track built two years ago near Sokokis Hall. Bola said exact details could change based on consultations that will take place among the school’s leadership.


Renovations to the Harold Alfond Forum are scheduled to be finished by fall as well. The addition will house an expanded weight room and new locker room. The project is part of the University of New England’s long term goals to update its athletic facilities. (Grant McPherson photo) Renovations to the Harold Alfond Forum are scheduled to be finished by fall as well. The addition will house an expanded weight room and new locker room. The project is part of the University of New England’s long term goals to update its athletic facilities. (Grant McPherson photo) “We want to make sure what we’re doing is in the best interest of all of our students for the long term,” Bola said.

Bola said he would like to continue the current color scheme of UNE’s turf fields but discussions haven’t reached that point yet.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was blue,” he said.

The school is also looking to add waterfront landscaping adjacent to the university commons, which is under construction. He said the project will provide green space in front of the building overlooking the Saco River. Bola said the concept was approved by the city but the space closest to the water will undergo additional scrutiny before final approval by the city.

“There are some nuances we need to complete before the landscaping is completely approved,” he said.

Bola said the Danielle N. Ripich Commons, named after the outgoing president, is 60,000-square-feet and has a fireplace on every floor. Bola said the commons are meant to be a gathering space dedicated to student support services, academic success and global affairs. He said the school is trying to bring services to students instead of students having to look for them.

“This building is an innovative student support system for the 21st century,” Bola said.

Bola said he hopes to see university commons completed by fall although construction has been delayed by deliveries of steel. He said once completed, the university commons will connect to the library via a sky bridge, a hallway connecting the upper floors of each building.

Bola said renovations to the Harold Alfond Forum and human resources at 588 Pool St. should be completed by fall as well. The Harold Alfond Forum will have an expanded weight room and new locker rooms.

Nicholas Desjardins, assistant assessor for the city of Biddeford, said the total value of all property under the University of New England in Biddeford totals $98,887,300 with new construction. The city’s mil rate on properties in Biddeford is $19.86 per $1,000 of valuation. The University of New England would pay $1,963,901.78 in property tax if it wasn’t tax exempt because of its nonprofit status. The school pays an annual Pilot, payment in lieu of taxes, of $100,000 and has paid through the current fiscal year.

Bola said the school will consider new athletic venues as needs arise.

“We will build the infrastructure necessary to support the growth of athletic opportunities for all our students,” he said.

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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