Turf field plans reach final stages

Pending the approval of the Town’s two zoning boards, the College will install the first artificial grass facility in Berkshire County this winter in an effort to counter the toll of harsh New England winters on student-athletes. The final design for the turf field has been met with criticism from both within and outside the College community, however, as the facility will use much of the area behind Poker Flats, one of the few open green spaces available for the recreational use of students, and will employ a series of 70-foot high lighting posts.

The all-weather facility, named in honor of Renzi Lamb, the College’s recently-retired director of the intramural program and head lacrosse coach, will be located on Upper Cole Field and will be used primarily by the College’s field hockey, lacrosse and intramural teams.

Although College administrators have been discussing the idea of building an all-weather field for several years, the plan to build one on Upper Cole Field did not come to fruition until the middle of April when friends and family of Lamb organized the funding of the project, which is expected to cost two million dollars.

Since securing funding, the College has proceeded as quickly as possible on the project, enlisting the expertise of Clark Companies, a firm located in Delhi, New York which specifically deals with all-weather athletic fields and the Musco Company of Oskaloosa, Iowa which focuses on constructing lighting fixtures for such athletic fields

The design they produced entails a regulation 360-by-240-foot field which can be divided in half, allowing two intramural games to be played simultaneously. Concerned with the possibility of causing athletic injury, the College decided not to cover the field with the standard, rigid artificial turf and instead opted for a soft, shaggy artificial grass surface.

In order to illuminate the field for night play, lights will be installed on three 70-foot high poles along each side. The design for the facility also includes two moveable bleacher units and a small press box alongside the field. A fence will surround the entire facility, measuring 380-by-260 feet including the field and the infrastructure, with spectator parking and access from the Field House end.

The College will present the plans for the new facility to the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals this week, and pending their approval and the approval of the Town’s Planning Board next month, construction is slated to begin in mid-October.

“The construction of the artificial turf field will take approximately three to four months to complete once all appropriate permits have been obtained,” said Earl Smith, Director of Facility Operations. “Work will include excavation and fill to level the site, preparation of sub-grade, installation of liner and drainage, filling to final grade, installation of E-layer and artificial surface and the provisions for access, fences, bleacher pads and night lighting.”

The prospect of the College undertaking another construction project, however, has raised some concerns from the Town as well as the student body. Town residents near Upper Cole Field are concerned about the possible disturbances and light pollution which may be emitted from the new field, while students are concerned that the orientation of the field will take up more of the green space behind Poker Flats than they originally realized.

“The College proactively engaged the local residents to provide them with timely and accurate information on the project,” Smith said. “We try to review with the stakeholders in any of our projects so we can respond to legitimate concerns and issues.”

This proactive engagement involved the College’s inviting the approximate 40 households which were going to be affected by the new facility to a neighborhood forum in August.

“We definitely want to be responsible neighbors on this project,” said Irene Addison, associate vice president for Facilities and Auxiliary Services. “That means bringing in the right type of contractors and the right technology to minimize the impact [on nearby residents].”

Addison said that the College was able to respond to the residents’ concerns about light pollution because Musco Company, which specializes in lighting fixtures for sporting events, is able to utilize the latest technology.

Musco Company showed that by using 70-foot high poles, the light will be directed solely downwards onto the field and minimize glare and light spillage. Furthermore, Musco Company is constructing lights with shields on the top to reduce the overglow caused by the lights.

Some students object to the current design plan since its location will use much of the open green space behind Poker Flats, which is used by intramural and club sports.

When designing the plans for the facility, Clark Companies surveyed Upper Cole Field and produced three separate plans for the new field. After examining the plans and weighing in such factors as cost, natural features such as land contours and wetlands and the impact of the sun on players, the College decided to orient the field along a northwest to southeast line.

“One of the biggest complications with the turf field is its location and orientation,” said C.J. Bak ’05, member of the Committee on Priorities and Resources and business manger for the Record. “Due to flooding concerns, the administration was forced to place the field on Poker Flats, and because of sun issues, the field is running diagonally across almost the entirety of the usable space on Poker. Once the turf field is built, the only grass field space available to club sports and the student body at large will be the field next to the tennis courts. . . The preservation of usable green spaces will definitely be an issue raised by the students on the Committee on Priorities and Resources this year.”

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