Williston To Christen New Facility

Easthampton, MA – There’s no place like home – especially for the Williston Northampton School’s football team. The Wildcats will host Gunnery at 7 p.m. Saturday in their first home game at the Easthampton prep school’s new $2 million athletic field.
In addition to replacing the grass playing surface with synthetic turf, the school also installed lights and seating for approximately 800 spectators.

“We decided we wanted to make a first-class facility, something our school community was going to be really proud of,” Williston athletic director and football coach Mark Conroy said. “Something that might set us apart from other schools.”

The field will be christened Berube Stadium at Sawyer Field prior to the game, in honor of alumnus Dennis Berube, whose donation paid for the majority of the project.

“We’re expecting a pretty huge crowd,” Conroy said. “Every football alum is invited back from the last 50 years.”

The old grass field had been used for football games since 1900, according to Conroy. The girls lacrosse teams also played there, along with several summer sports camps.

“We were having a hard time maintaining a good, safe playing surface,” Conroy said. “We were using it as soon as the snow came off it in March up until the snow went back on it.”

After consulting a field architect, the school decided to install A-Turf, a synthetic surface similar to FieldTurf that is also used at Southern Methodist University, the University of Hartford and Assumption College.

“We were advised that we could put in the best (grass) and drainage system, and we’d still never be able to maintain it, because you’d need to allow the field to rest,” Conroy said. “The fact is we can have teams play (year-round) and we can’t wear it out.”

Unlike Astroturf, the A-Turf surface has a natural grass feel.

“It’s much safer than Astroturf, as far as joint injuries and the hardness of the surface,” Conroy said. “There’s firmness, but there’s also a cushion. It plays like closely-cropped grass.”

The field is also virtually weatherproof, thanks to a complex drainage system built underneath the turf.

“Right now, we can take five inches of rain in an hour and be bone dry,” Conroy said. “Rain or shine, it’s a beautiful playing surface.”

The new setup will also allow the Wildcats to play under the lights for the first time in the school’s history.

“Normally, when you play a football game, there’s also soccer and field hockey and other things going on,” Conroy said. “By doing something at night, you get the whole community out there.”

While the field will be used primarily for football in the fall and girls lacrosse in the spring, other teams will benefit as well. The boys and girls soccer and field hockey teams have already played games there, and the boys lacrosse team is also expected to play some games there in the spring

And come next year, those teams could have a new home of their own. According to Conroy, Williston is planning to renovate the off-campus Galbrath Fields, building a facility for track, soccer, field hockey and boys lacrosse sometime within the next year.

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