Colby College today announced that it has received a $101-million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation in support of two of Colby’s most important recent initiatives: the economic revitalization of downtown Waterville and the development of the most advanced D-III athletics and recreation center in the country. This is the College’s third gift of more than $100 million and builds on many decades of philanthropy from the Foundation to Colby.
The gift is part of the Harold Alfond Foundation’s recently announced $500 million of new grant investments in Maine institutions. The grant to Colby builds on Mr. Alfond and his family’s legacy at the College, which began with a gift for Colby’s first ice rink in 1955 that positioned Colby for competitive success and led to Colby being a founding member of the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference). Created in 1950, the Foundation furthers the philanthropic legacy of Harold Alfond, founder of Dexter Shoe Company.
Harold Alfond was married to Dorothy “Bibby” Levine Alfond, a member of the Colby Class of 1938. Their shared commitment to Colby, Waterville, and Maine continues through the work of the Foundation. Dozens of Alfond and Levine family members attended Colby over the last century, and Harold Alfond received an honorary doctorate from the College in 1980.
“The Harold Alfond Foundation and the Alfond family have made an indelible mark not only on Colby but on this region and the entire state of Maine,” said President David A. Greene. “What I love most about the Foundation’s philanthropy is how it directly benefits the people of Maine while at the same time fostering connections between the grantees and their communities. That is certainly true at Colby, where the people of this area will experience the long-lasting impact as the downtown revitalization efforts come fully to fruition and as we are able to welcome our community into the beautiful Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center.”
The generous funding from the Harold Alfond Foundation is also a significant part of Colby’s Dare Northward campaign, the largest campaign in liberal arts college history. With $555 million raised to date, representing nearly 75 percent of its goal of $750 million, the College has launched key initiatives that are already having an impact on Colby students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community.
In the mid-20th century, Waterville, then home to the Alfond family, was a thriving commercial center. Over the past several decades the area has confronted loss of manufacturing jobs and the city center became less of a dynamic core. Inspired and led by Harold Alfond’s commitment to leadership and teamwork, and his desire to give those in his community the opportunity to succeed, the Harold Alfond Foundation has long supported the Waterville and Central Maine communities through grants and challenges to the Alfond Youth Center, Thomas College, Educare of Central Maine, the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, Colby College, and many more.
In 2014, partnering with the city that had long supported the College, Colby committed to efforts to create a thriving downtown and a sustainable economic future for Waterville. The Foundation, led by Chairman Greg Powell, who grew up in Waterville and received an honorary degree from Colby in 2018, has been an extraordinary partner in this effort. In 2016 Powell announced the first major commitment from the Foundation toward the downtown Waterville efforts, $10 million, which was matched by the College.
To date, $84 million of investment by Colby and the Foundation can be seen in a wide range of important initiatives on Main Street, including the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, a residential complex for Colby students in the middle of downtown that has deepened civic engagement with the community, and the soon-to-be-completed Lockwood Hotel with its new Front and Main restaurant. The integrated strategy for Waterville, where all projects are connected and reinforce each other to create new centers of community on Main Street, includes the creation of an arts ecosystem to position the city as a premier destination for arts and culture.
One of the key elements is Colby’s recently announced arts collaborative at 18 Main Street, currently under construction with a planned opening in the spring of 2021. The arts collaborative will benefit Colby students and faculty, as well as the broader community by providing vibrant arts programming and artist studios. Other important venues include the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, a partnership with the community arts organization Waterville Creates!, which will break ground in 2021 and expand the renowned Colby Museum of Art to Main Street by housing a new gallery of contemporary art downtown, as well as the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, which is in the pre-construction phase on Colby’s campus.
“Waterville will soon have a diverse set of flexible, multipurpose spaces for art and cultural programming that will enrich life in the city by attracting internationally recognized and emerging artists, support access to world-class performances and exhibits, and provide new opportunities for creative expression for all of our community members,” said Colby’s Diamond Family Director of the Arts Teresa McKinney. “Just as vital, the arts can be an economic driver in Waterville and are a core component of the community’s revitalization, which is why investing in the city’s cultural programs is one of the highest priorities of this initiative.”
The New Level of Excellence for Athletics and Recreation
The generous grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation also supports Colby College’s new Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center. As the most state-of-the-art and comprehensive NCAA D-III facility in the country, it is another example of Colby’s and the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to excellence and supporting students in pursuit of their goals.
As a lifelong athlete and sports fan, Harold Alfond believed that athletics offer invaluable benefits and opportunities for personal growth to all members of the community, especially the young. The Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center honors Harold Alfond and the profound impact of his philanthropy. The new three-story, 354,000-square-foot facility, which opened this fall, will play a key role in providing all students with the opportunity to lead active and healthy lifestyles, which is a critical component of the Colby experience.
“The new Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center is an extension of Colby’s mission to develop and educate students and help them compete in and out of the classroom to achieve excellence in all areas of their lives,” said Mike Wisecup, vice president and Harold Alfond Director of Athletics. “Whether it’s varsity sports or individual fitness initiatives, competitive or recreational athletics, an active and healthy lifestyle is a critical part of the student experience at Colby. The goal of the new facility is to support that experience at the highest level possible and provide the best resources available.”
The Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center, which is located at the north end of campus across from Johnson Pond, has a wide range of unique venues. Key among them are an aquatics center with the only Olympic-sized Myrtha pool in New England, an ice arena with year-round regulation ice, the three-level Boulos Family Fitness Center, the Margaret M. Crook Center with three regulation-length basketball and volleyball courts, and the open-air O’Neil Atrium at the center of the building.
The new center’s size and capacity enables a level of competition, fitness, and recreation that is unavailable at many institutions this fall due to the pandemic, and allows Colby to launch a new and unique fitness and recreation program for the entire campus. It surpasses conventional athletics and recreation facility design by bringing together all of Colby’s indoor competition venues as well as training, recreation and support areas into one elegant space.
“One of the most unique elements about this facility is that all the athletic and recreation venues are together, which brings members of our community together, whether they are training for varsity competition, practicing yoga, or learning to rock climb,” said Tiffany Lomax, Colby’s first director of recreation services. “This will allow us to coordinate and connect activities—and the staff driving them—so all of our students can benefit from everything this amazing building has to offer.”
Hopkins Architects was the lead design architect on the project while Sasaki served as the architect of record and the general contractor was Consigli.
Athletics and Recreation for Waterville and Central Maine
The new Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center will also be an important part of Colby’s commitment to drive the economic resurgence of Waterville and Central Maine. To that end, the ability to eventually invite more teams and events to campus—from NESCAC to international competitions—will have a significant positive impact on the local economy.
Just as important, once the pandemic is contained the center will expand on Colby’s long history of being a partner, steward, and resource for community events, including youth competition and practice.
“This beautiful new building will eventually provide an opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate and support athletics, which, through its focus on teamwork and healthy competition, can positively impact the lives of young people,” said Wisecup. “This was always the core intent of the building’s namesake, Harold Alfond, and Colby will continue to honor that purpose.”
Construction of the $200-million Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center, which broke ground in October of 2017, included more than 80 contractors, nearly 50 of which were Maine-based. Additionally, almost $120 million of the overall cost of the project went to businesses within the state.
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