DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Truth be told, groundbreaking for the new Jim Robinson Field House on the campus of Foxcroft Academy took place more than a week ago.
But Monday afternoon’s ceremony acknowledging the start of construction of the $5.5 million project — backed at times by a soundtrack of heavy equipment continuing to move earth from a former soccer field just beyond the school’s football stadium — marked a turning point for a project years in the making.
When completed by the summer of 2022, the 81,000-square-foot structure will house an artificial turf field large enough to host field hockey contests and other activities for Foxcroft student-athletes and community members throughout the area.
It also will feature a four-lane, fifth-of-a-mile walking track around the inside of the building, a jumping pit for indoor track events, locker room facilities, office space and a weight room.
Team practices for numerous sports and even countable field hockey games are among uses planned for the field house, but attendees won’t be limited to a school-age clientele.
“I see senior citizens getting up in the morning and walking here because it’s going to provide a very safe walking space,” Foxcroft head of school Arnold Shorey said. “I see batting cages for softball and baseball players. I see it used for warming up for the golf season, so when someone wants to swing a golf club in March I see golfers coming in and hitting into a net. We’re going to do everything we can to make this something for the entire community.”
The project’s origin involved a planned expansion of the school’s gymnasium but was upgraded in 2018 when the Portland-based Libra Foundation continued its major investment in the region by providing a lead gift of $2 million for an on-campus field house.
The private philanthropy previously funded construction of the $5.5 million Piscataquis County Ice Area that opened on West Main Street in 2019 and in recent years also invested more than $10 million in the town of Monson, located 20 miles north of Dover-Foxcroft on Route 15, by building an arts colony, upgrading downtown buildings and creating a new medical center.
“I think this is a high-growth area for the state of Maine with everything there is to offer,” said Craig Denekas, Libra Foundation chairman and chief executive officer. “The opportunities for new families here are fantastic and the recreational opportunities here are second to none, so we felt this was really an area we wanted to focus on because of all the resources that are here already. We can build on that.”
Foxcroft Academy is continuing to raise the remaining funds needed for the field house, including the naming-rights donation made by Jim Robinson, a 1959 FA alumnus and owner of the Dover-Foxcroft-based A.E. Robinson Oil Co.
Those fundraising efforts were slowed somewhat in 2020 due to the pandemic but have bounced back this year, Shorey said.
“Eliminating travel and in-person meetings really impacted us but slowly it’s picking back up,” he