Our Opinion: BCC field opens new era in Berkshire sports

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Rarely does a public works project embody local pride, perseverance, legitimacy, community spirit and usefulness, but the new artificial turf field at BCC does all that and more. After seven years of dreaming, setbacks, court involvement and fundraising, the new field — which will finally reserve a spot for the Berkshires on the Massachusetts interscholastic athletics map — has broken ground (Eagle, July 21).

The absence of such a field in the Berkshires has long bedeviled the student-athletes of a county that has produced more than its fair share of sports stars, particularly since the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association ruled that all championship games must be played on artificial turf. Berkshires students have had to travel as far as Westfield to even practice on such a surface, and at times the athletes' first encounter with turf's crumb rubber components has been in championship games that, by necessity, have been "away" matches.

The journey from dream to reality has been fraught, characterized by a handful of neighbors who raised objections about the environmental impact and the reputed toxicity of the field's material. All of these concerns were addressed to the satisfaction of a special judge who allowed the project to finally move forward.

This is truly a field for all Berkshirites: athletes and their families and friends will be able to host championship games locally, which will contribute to the Berkshires economy. The field, while situated on the BCC campus, will have the capability of hosting soccer, football and lacrosse and be available to all local high schools. Special credit should go to the entire Berkshires legislative delegation for securing the core $1.1-million grant that jump-started the project, BCC President Ellen Kennedy whose institution contributed the venue and attorney Mike MacDonald, who stewarded the concept through the financial and legal shoals. The county's current and future student-athletes are and will be grateful.

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