PITTSFIELD, Mass. — On Friday afternoon, Berkshire Community College ushered in a new era in Berkshire County sports and recognized a longtime civic leader in the process.
The best part for honoree Gene Dellea? It just may be the fact that his part came at the end of a 45-minute dedication.
"For all of you who know this person, you will say to yourself, 'Of course, this should be dedicated to this person,' " Dellea's friend Emil George said moments before revealing the name of the long-awaited artificial turf field at BCC. "Because this field is important not just to Pittsfield but to Berkshire County, it should be dedicated to someone who has given so much not just to Pittsfield, but to Berkshire County.
"And he has done it quietly over 60 years. He's never asked for anything. He shuns the spotlight. In fact, it's killing this person right now to even know I'm talking about this. When I mentioned this idea to Mike [MacDonald] and Fran [Marinaro] and Sheriff [Thomas Bowler] and President [Ellen] Kennedy, their first reaction was, ‘How are we going to get this person to agree to accept this honor?' "
But what was one more challenge to a group that worked for seven years to realize the dream of a field that will serve not only the college but youth sports and high school teams in Pittsfield and beyond for decades to come.
Dellea relented to accepting the honor and was front and center on Friday afternoon to cut the ribbon that officially opened the facility.
Characteristically, he insisted that Kennedy join him in that happy task, and, in his own remarks, he deflected credit to her and the dedicated volunteers who helped drive the project.
"This wasn't an easy project,” said Dellea, the president of Fairview Hospital and Berkshire Medical Center's Hillcrest campus. "But [Kennedy] never backed down. She had the skill to listen, discuss, go outside and get more information from the faculty.”
And despite fierce opposition from some in the community who worried that the field could harm the environment, the college Friday trumpeted the positive ecological impact of the $3.1 million project.
"There are actually five elements of this field project that are behind us that involve environmental improvements,” BCC Turf Field Committee member MacDonald said. "Going forward, [the area south of the turf field] will be a living laboratory, and the students here at BCC will help monitor the improved assets.”
In fact, the athletic facility itself is still a work in progress. MacDonald pointed out that down the road, the school will add permanent bleachers and a press box, a new state-of-the-art scoreboard, a concession stand and, as soon as this spring, a newly landscaped secondary field adjacent to the turf field.
But the artificial turf field was the main attraction on Friday, and as soon as the ribbon was cut and the dignitaries retreated to the sidelines, high school student-athletes from North Adams to Great Barrington took over.
The annual Berkshire County soccer scrimmage jamboree featured boys and girls teams from Drury, Wahconah, Lenox, Monument Mountain and, of course, Pittsfield and Taconic.
Like the nearby city high school, the new field is an investment in Pittsfield's youth, said Marinaro, who took his turn at the dais along with Bowler and MacDonald.
"What does it mean to the athletes of this community, it means that we're taking an interest in the kids of our community,” Marinaro said. "We build the Taconic High School down the road, and here we are today at BCC saying, ‘You are good athletes. You're worth it. And we're going to invest in you.
"That's the beauty of this whole thing -- to invest in youth with everything going on not only in our community but throughout the country. This is just an incredible opportunity.”
Marinaro took advantage of the ribbon-cutting to present the latest donation to the turf field project, a $5,000 check from civic group UNICO. It joined a long list of contributors that includes the Feigenbaum Foundation, the City of Pittsfield, Mill Town Capital, Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union and the Berkshire Community College Foundation, which Dellea serves as president.
His service to the local community college is one of just one of the ways Dellea works to make the county a better place.
And Rep. William "Smitty” Pignatelli, like George, noted how much of Dellea's work is done under the radar.
"Gene Dellea is one of my dearest friends in life,” Pignatelli said. "Emil said it best: He's gone about his life preferring to be in the background. … Gene has done so much for so many for so long, so quietly, that I can't think of a more deserving person than Gene Dellea to have this field dedicated to.
"He's done more for youth development, getting young people a head start or a jump on life, than anybody I've ever met in my life. I can't think of a more fitting tribute, Gene, than to have this for you.”
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