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Bill and Joan Alfond of Boston, Mass., have issued a challenge grant through the William and Joan Alfond Foundation to help Colby raise $2.7 million for a synthetic grass athletic field. The name “Alfond” graces several major facilities at Colby, but this is the first time it will be the name of Bill Alfond, a 1972 graduate of Colby, on the sign. The son of Harold and Bibby Alfond launched Colby’s fund raising for the project by promising to give up to $1.35 million, of which $850,000 is in the form of a challenge grant that will match, dollar-for-dollar, every gift Colby can raise for the project.

The synthetic grass athletic field emerged as a priority for Colby as the college developed a strategic plan, approved in 2002. Colby President William Adams said, “Athletics play a powerful role in the educational process and we recognize how important team experiences are to individual students and to the college. At Colby we are committed to an extensive program that encourages broad student participation in sports.” Colby fields 16 women’s teams, 15 men’s teams and a co-ed golf team, and more than 600 students participate on them. Particularly in the spring, as coaches and athletes wait for snow to melt and fields to dry out, team practices are limited and home games sometimes get postponed or moved to off-campus fields.

The new multipurpose field, to be located just east of Colby’s existing soccer and lacrosse field, will be the game field for women’s and men’s lacrosse teams in the spring and for the women’s field hockey team in the fall. All 11 varsity teams that play on outdoor fields will benefit from the new field for competition, practices or both. Colby’s club and intramural sports also will be able to use the surface, and the field will be made available for use by community organizations and the greater Waterville community in accordance with the college’s facilities scheduling policies.

Currently teams are sometimes confined to the field house for more than half of the spring season because of ground conditions. The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), in which Colby competes, permits practices for spring teams to begin as early as February 15. The new 240 by 360-foot artificial surface will be plowed of snow, so it will be available then. That will relieve pressure in the Harold Alfond Athletic Center, where numerous spring teams practice until outdoor fields are ready. Plans call for lighting the synthetic grass field and for building bleachers, restrooms and a scoreboard adjacent to it.

President Adams praised the gift and explained why the synthetic grass field is among the college’s strategic priorities. “We must remain competitive, both in regard to our athletic teams and to attracting applicants for admission, and Bill and Joan Alfond’s gift helps in both respects by providing Colby with a state-of-the-art facility. Their generosity carries on a family tradition that has helped shape the college as it is today.”

“We have the best student athletes and the best coaches,” Bill Alfond said. “In order to be a winner, this synthetic grass field is the last piece of puzzle. We are relying on friends of Colby to help achieve this victory.”