The project is already underway and is expected to be completed in six weeks.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Friday night lights will shine a bit brighter in the county.
Berkshire Community College celebrated the groundbreaking of a new turf field sports complex on its campus. In just six weeks, the county will have a top-notch sports facilities for youth football, soccer, lacrosse, and more for both day and night play.
"This is a community asset, not a Berkshire Community College asset. This field is about bringing together families, athletes, future athletes, and kids just trying out sports to come up here and play on this field and feel this is their field. They will learn and grow into fine athletes," BCC President Ellen Kennedy said on Friday morning.
The inception of the project was seven years ago, following a fall sports season when 80 percent of the high school football and soccer game were either canceled or rescheduled because of rain. It was a particularly wet year and the fields were mostly unusable.
Michael MacDonald, a former coach, called together a group of sports coaches and supporter to talk about a new complex. BCC proved to be the best location because of the available space, use of the college, and that it was on a bus line. The turf field committee met with former college President Paul Raverta and Kennedy to discuss the idea.
"The college jumped in with both field and never wavered," MacDonald, a local attorney, said. "In about six weeks, we will see the first games played on this field, starting with the kickoff classic. We hope and expect that in about five months, we will see the first county and regional playoffs for fall sports."
The $2.4 million project would need a lot of support and the Feigenbaum Foundation became one large piece of the puzzle.
"We knew this was going to be a difficult task. There aren't many funding sources and to raise the amount of money that you needed to raise to close that gap to finish the project the way you all wanted to finish the project is going to be very difficult," Emil George, of the foundation said.
Former state Sen. Benjamin Downing and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier lobbied the state government and got $1.1 million allocated in an environmental bond bill. That was released by former Gov. Deval Patrick and the project was well on its way.
Farley-Bouvier reflected on the days when her children would come to BCC for the kickoff classic and remembered how much of a safe place the college and the event were. She'd been able to let her children roam fairly freely because she knew the community there would keep them safe. She knew that the project will only enhance the lessons and memories area children would get from sports.
Downing couldn't attend the groundbreaking, but his successor, state Sen. Adam Hinds, said the project is more than a facility for sports to be played.
"We're investing in our kids. We are investing in an asset to the community that is going to have an economic impact, the more that we are hosting more regional playoff events. And it emphasizes our outdoor recreation and the role of kids getting outside and exercising," Hinds said. "It is a huge impact for the city and the county."
The Berkshire Bank Foundation and Greylock Federal Credit Union both chipped in for the project. They saw the same thing — that the field wasn't simply a field but an educational tool for youth.
"What really got us excited about this project was not necessarily the facility in and of itself. It's what's going to take place on that field. It is the lessons that our student-athletes are going to learn, the values that are instilled through athletics," Gary Levante of Berkshire Bank said.
Peter Mirante, of Greylock, coached youth sports. He knows about the skills and friendship sports brings. And he always wondered why the Berkshires never had such a field.
"In past years when I coached young sports in the Berkshires, I recall traveling to away games in small towns around the region and marveling at the complexes they had. I'd always ask myself why don't we have complexes like this? And now we do," Mirante said.
Former St. Joe football coach Gary Bianchi echoed the sentiment. He said it will do wonders for the local sports teams to know that they'll be able to play Friday night despite any rain.
"Berkshire County and Pittsfield athletics is going to be a better place to be now that this is here," Bianchi said.
The gold shovels were out for the ceremony.
Pittsfield's Director of Administration Roberta McCulloch-Dews, representing Mayor Linda Tyer, voiced similar thoughts.
Beyond that though, BCC is seeing benefits elsewhere: in the environment. Bruce Winn, a member of the environmental science faculty, said that years ago the space outside of the Paterson Field House was incorrectly built. The water that should have been going to the riverfront and wetlands area wasn't.
"The geometry of [this] field has been engineered to restore that hydrology, that water flows, back to the wetlands and back to the vernal pools. We are really excited about that," Winn said.
Emily Stockman, of Stockman and Associates, did an environmental assessment of the area prior to breaking ground. She said there is a great environmental resource on the campus. She said the assessment gave the engineers a chance to protect the wetlands and riverfronts while also solving that hydrology issue.
"We were able to incorporate a restoration of some areas that had inadvertently been impacted by some past activities on campus," Stockman said.
The field is already well underway and Kennedy said when the ribbon cutting happens, that is when they'll unveil the name of the field. And that, unlike other projects, is a day she knew would happen ever since Dec. 15, 2011, when she met with those behind the effort for the first time.
"We knew this day would come. We knew this was going to happen," Kennedy said.
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