SCARBOROUGH, Maine — The owners of the former Scarborough Downs harness racing track are donating use of the facility's grandstand to MaineHealth so it can be converted into a high-volume COVID-19 vaccination site.
MaineHealth announced the new site Thursday afternoon. It will be open to eligible Maine residents, Dr. Dora Mills of MaineHealth says.
"The goal is shots in arms as quickly as possible," said Dr. Mills. "I walked in and said, 'this is the perfect set up.'"
Crossroad Holdings, the Scarborough-based company that is redeveloping 500-plus acres at Scarborough Downs, has diverted its construction crews to retrofit the grandstand within a two-week period.
The 30,000 square-foot clinic will have more than 100 MaineHealth employees and volunteers on-hand and will be able to vaccinate at least 1,000 people per day.
It is expected to be operational for six months, and longer if needed said Peter Michaud, managing partner of Crossroad Holdings, which owns the former racetrack.
"We saw an opportunity to help," said Michaud. "Anything we can do to help stand the great state of Maine back up on it's feet, we want to do that within our power."
A 40-member construction team managed by Scarborough’s Maine Properties and Risbara Brothers Construction will work 7-days a week in order to complete the clinic by the end of January. The construction teams will build clinical workspaces, improve access to high-speed broadband and build out refrigeration rooms needed to house the vaccines. The State of Maine will assist with on-site security.
It will reduce pressure on other parts of the system," said Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC Director. "It's like there being a bunch of different lines at the grocery store. When they see congestion happening, they open up more cashiers."
“Finding a space that is centrally located and able to accommodate all the needs of a high-volume clinic is vital to our efforts to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Bill Caron, CEO of MaineHealth said in a news release. “This generous donation from Crossroad Holdings is big step forward in getting this pandemic under control and saving lives here in Maine.”
Town leaders in Scarborough have been extraordinarily supportive of the project. They have worked quickly to secure all needed permits for the grandstand’s new, temporary use. The Town Council will hold an emergency meeting to approve and finalize plans on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
The issue now is getting more doses of vaccine.
"As soon as we have more vaccine, we're going to have the infrastructure such as Scarborough Downs to be able to get a lot of people in there," said Mills.