Augusta gets $1.6 million donation for artificial turf field, other work at Cony’s Alumni Field

This June 7, 2019 photo shows the Alumni field of Cony High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal File

AUGUSTA – With the coronavirus pandemic making it unlikely that fundraising for improvements in Cony High School’s alumni field will be raised anytime soon, a donor who had already agreed to pay for part of the project has expanded its offering.

Robert G. Fuller Jr., a retired Winthrop resident who now lives in Maryland, previously offered a donation of $ 500,000 when matched with other donations. Fuller, whose family tree includes several prominent Augusta residents, has agreed to increase this donation to $ 1.64 million.

William Bridgeo, Augusta’s city manager, said the donation, when combined with previously raised and earmarked funds, should be enough to fund the proposed $ 2.3 million project at Alumni Field, which will be renamed Fuller Field.

Without the donation, the project would probably not take place, at least not for a long time.

“Between the financial burdens on the city from the pandemic and other pressing concerns, we’ve all given up on being able to do this for the foreseeable future,” Bridgeo said. “That’s part of the wonder of it. As far as quality of life goes, this is high on the list. Therefore we are very happy about it. “

In addition to the coronavirus pandemic that affected the ability to raise funds for the project, offers for the work came in at around $ 2.3 million – much more than the $ 1.5 million projected by officials U.S. dollar. This resulted in the project being suspended.

But two weeks ago, Bridgeo said, Fuller called him to say he wanted to increase his donation and remove the corresponding provision that existed with the original offer.

“It is difficult for us to express our deep gratitude to Bob for what he has done and continues to do for our city,” said Mayor David Rollins in a press release. “Bob appreciates that youth athletics is an essential part of our children’s development. It’s about as good to make sure they have facilities that will fuel that growth and that they can be proud of as anyone can. “

Fuller declined to comment other than a statement he made for a city press release. In that statement, he said he was motivated to give the gift because he believed that a high school with a continued history of athletic success encourages a sense of community pride. In return, he said, it’s easier to attract people like doctors, teachers, artists, and entrepreneurs who add value and choose to stay there.

“Not only because Augusta has the superior facilities and services they demand, but also because a visitor can find that its citizens are optimistic and like to live where they are,” Fuller said in his statement. “Without the infrastructure you need to support you, you can’t have successful teams these days. So I don’t see what I do as a gift, but as an investment in Augusta’s future. “

Part of the previous agreement with Fuller regarding his donation was for the sports complex to be renamed Fuller Field.

Bridgeo said at the time the 2019 proposal went to them for review, city councils expressed a desire to recognize Fuller’s generosity by renaming the field for him.

Bridgeo said Fuller and his wife Moira have long contributed to numerous causes in Augusta, including the Maine General Medical Center, the Kennebec Valley YMCA, the Lithgow Public Library, and the Kennebec Historical Society. The naming of the field Fuller Field seeks to recognize these other contributions to the community, not just to the athletic complex.

Fuller also sponsored the installation of bylaws for Judge Daniel Cony at Cony High School and Melville Weston Fuller in front of the Kennebec County Courthouse, both of whom are Fuller’s ancestors.

The Melville Fuller statue has since sparked controversy because Melville Fuller, when he was Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, presided over the court that ruled Plessy v Ferguson, which promoted “separate but equal” doctrine and racial discrimination institutionalized the United States for several decades.

Proponents of the renovation of the sports complex said that replacing the lawn there with artificial turf will allow for much more frequent use of the field as it will not become muddy and unusable as the current field has done in the recent past.

Other work planned there includes relocating some athletics event areas such as the shot put, discus and javelin areas away from the soccer field to what is now old tennis courts.

The Taylor Harmon Track that surrounds the soccer field will remain in place and continue to be named after the late beloved track coach Taylor Harmon.

The other funding for the project has already been allocated for this and includes $ 400,000 from city councilors approved for the project in June 2019: $ 253,000 that was donated by a trust fund set up for philanthropist Elsie Viles of the late Augusta was set up to improve the alumni field. US $ 140,000 in funds returned to the project from funds raised in 2006 to build a new Cony High School. Bob Moore raised approximately $ 280,000 through Cony All Sports Boosters to fund the project.

Bridgeo said Fuller’s donation will allow the project to proceed immediately. He said the funds were already in the transfer and work was underway to get them ready for the tender again, which could happen within two months.

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