Tuesday June 19, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- When they referred to them as "grass courts" at Berkshire Community College a few years ago, they didn't mean the manicured surface at Wimbledon.

BCC's former president, Paul Raverta, described BCC's tennis courts at the time as in "beyond sad shape."

"I suggested that they be mowed with the lawn," he said.

With help from Raverta, those days are over.

On Monday, BCC officially dedicated the Paul E. Raverta Tennis Complex, which consists of three refurbished adult courts and two new youth courts.

Built to teach the game to kids under 10, the new courts are the first permanent "10 and under"-style courts in Western Massachusetts, according to William Ballen, the vice president of the U.S. Tennis Association's New England board of directors.

The adult courts were originally built when BCC moved to the West Street campus in 1972. The new youth courts were carved out of a portion of the athletic complex's parking lot.

The new courts contain blacktop covered with a composite rubberized surface. The colors are green and blue -- the same colors as the U.S. Open courts in New York, Ballen said.

The $335,000 project, completed last Saturday, was funded entirely by donors, including the USTA, and contains no public money, according to Raverta. It took 41 2 years to complete. It also completes BCC's restoration of its campus south of West Street, which includes Paterson Field House and the Moby Dick pool.

Raverta, who retired in January, spearheaded the restoration of the tennis courts, several speakers said at the dedication ceremony.

"The courts were his vision," said Susan Lombard, chairwoman of BCC's board of trustees. "This would never have happened without him."

Raverta, who plays tennis, said he felt "very strongly" that this project should occur.

"I love the game," he told The Eagle. "Along with golf, it's one of the two social sports. It's where people meet, and the time to do that is when you're young. So the U-10 part of the project was critical to me."

Besides the USTA, the project also received funding from Petricca Industries, the Berkshire Bank Foundation, and the Berkshire-Legacy Region Foundation.

"I believe in partnership projects," said Raverta, who was accompanied at the dedication by his wife and his sister-in-law. "I wanted to have other groups and individuals to be part of it. We could have done it any anytime, but I felt it was important to have other groups, especially the USTA involved."

A plaque bearing Raverta's name was unveiled following the speaking portion of the program.

"I'm truly honored and humbled that you would name the tennis courts after me," Raverta said.

He received a standing ovation from those in attendance.

The House and Senate each presented Raverta with a citation. State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing did the honors for their respective branches of state government.

BCC President Ellen M. Kennedy noted her predecessor's persistence in seeing the project through, while Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said the new courts reflect the partnership between BCC and the community.

"Anybody can have a good idea," said Ward 6 Councilor John Krol. "But it takes a special person to guide it through choppy waters."