January 9, 2004
In just over six weeks, the eyes of the world will be on Fort Kent as the top athletes in the sport of biathlon converge on the St. John Valley. Aside from the Maine Winter Sports Center venue itself, the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus promises to be a center of activity.
Within days of the announcement two years ago that Fort Kent would be one of two U.S. host sites for the World Cup competition UMFK campus officials extended their full cooperation to event organizers to ensure Fort Kent would be ready.
Since that time, under the leadership of President Richard Cost, the university has secured funding for and begun construction on a new residence hall - a wing of which will be completed and serve as an "athletes village" during the competition.
UMFK has also changed its academic calendar to allow its own students and faculty to participate in events; has committed Nadeau Hall, Nowland Hall and the Fox Auditorium to serve as an off-site competition headquarters, an athletes and coaches dining facility, and a cultural events facility respectively; and committed technology support, facilities management and other staff to ensure on-campus events run smoothly.
"The World Cup is an event that will have a significant impact on the future development of the St. John Valley region, and this institution has a vested interest in ensuring activities run smoothly," said Cost. "We have extended our full cooperation to event organizers and are looking forward to working together with the hundreds of community volunteers to show the world the best skiing and warmest hospitality found anywhere!"
The most obvious World Cup presence on the UMFK campus will be the competing athletes and their coaches, who will both live and dine at the university.
The 150 competitors will occupy the freshly completed south wing of the new residence hall, which is under construction beside the University SportsCenter on the opposite side of Pleasant Street from the main campus.
World Cup participants will be the first official residents of the $7 million, three-story, 47,595 square foot facility, which is slated for final completion in early summer.
The on-campus residents will also eat most of their meals for the week at the university dining hall. Campus officials and representatives of ARAMARK, the university's contracted food service provider, have been working on a special menu for the week that accommodates the special needs of the athletes.
Athletes and coaches who want to stay connected to family and friends around the world will also be provided computer and internet access through UMFK's information technology services.
In addition to services provided to participants, biathlon officials will occupy Nadeau Hall for most of the week of competition.
The facility will house the credential office, where the more than 400 volunteers will go to process their passes to access various sites at the Maine Winter Sports Center venue, and pick-up their volunteer uniforms.
The large teleconference room of Nadeau Hall will be used for organizational meetings of the captains from the various national teams competing in races. Media will also have an off-site headquarters in the computer lab adjacent to the teleconference room.
A competition office, which will house officials with the organizational committee, will be located on the first floor of Nadeau Hall as well.
Spectators enjoying the races and other festivities in and around Fort Kent will also have the opportunity to visit the UMFK campus for a number of cultural and social events. Included on that list and planned at the university are selected showings of the Banff Film Festival, an evening during which members of the public can star in their own music videos, and an entertaining evening with a hypnotist.
The largest on-campus gathering during the World Cup festivities will happen on the evening of Saturday, March 6, when competitors, officials and volunteers gather in the University SportsCenter for the official closing gala dinner. Upwards of 500 people are expected to attend the event.