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Talk about an extreme, and green, makeover.

Over the past year, West Campus students have watched as a tired brick building and a parking lot were transformed into a 110,000-square-foot athletic field and state-of-the-art underground parking facility, made possible by a $3 million donation from Brighton-based shoe manufacturer New Balance. Students returned this fall to find the bright green New Balance Field, which was dedicated by the Board of Trustees in a closed ceremony on September 19, 2013 at 3 p.m.

A second field was desperately needed: the varsity field hockey team hadn’t played or practiced at BU for 13 years because the type of artificial turf on Nickerson Field was poorly suited for the sport, and intramural and club teams competed with varsity sports for Nickerson field time. It got to the point that although Nickerson’s turf had a life expectancy of 15 years, it had to be replaced after 8.

The new field essentially doubles BU’s playable green space, says Michael Lynch, a BU assistant vice president and director of athletics. It makes it possible to bring field hockey back to campus and to add men’s lacrosse to the roster of Terrier varsity teams, as well as to provide practice space for varsity teams and the more than 8,000 students who play intramural and club sports. The opening of the field also coincides with BU athletic teams’ inaugural season in the Patriot League.

New Balance Field, Boston University 

A tired brick building and a parking lot have been transformed into the state-of-the-art New Balance Field. Photo by Chitose Suzuki

The total cost of the facility, comprising the field, bleacher seating for 500, and a 322-car garage, was $27 million, according to Gregg Snyder, assistant director for financial analysis and budgeting at Facilities Management & Planning (FM&P). Major donors in addition to New Balance include BU overseer William D. Bloom (CGS’82, SMG’84), a former BU rugby player who made the first philanthropic contribution toward the field; Robert S. Trump (DGE’68, CAS’70); C. Lance Piccolo (SED’62), chair of the Board of Trustees athletic committee and a former BU football player; Lawrence Cohen (CAS’83) and Judy Cohen; overseer Raymond Killian (SED’59) and Helen Killian; trustee Stuart W. Pratt (CAS’69); trustee Bippy Siegal; and trustee Ronald G. Garriques (ENG’86).

Beth Byrne, a FM&P senior project manager, is pleased that BU is getting two uses out of one plot of land. “Space is at a premium on an urban campus, so this is an excellent use of space,” she says. “Before, there was a building that was an eyesore, but this new field enhances this west end of campus. We see green now.”

While New Balance Field was not eligible for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification, Byrne lists ways that her team kept the environment in mind: LED lights were used in the parking garage; the garage is considered an “open-air” structure, meaning no HVAC system is needed for ventilation; and the field’s lights and speakers are positioned to minimize light and sound pollution. Crews used local supplies whenever possible, from the 416 pieces of precast concrete custom-made in Vermont to a facade built of bricks made in Maine. Trees, flowers, benches, and widened sidewalks for pedestrians surround the field.

Laying astroturf, New Balance Field, Boston University 

In August, crews laid approximately 90,000 square feet of AstroTurf. Photo by Cydney Scott

Crews laid approximately 90,000 square feet of AstroTurf, the preferred surface for field hockey. Because AstroTurf is watered to slow the ball and to keep it from bouncing, New Balance Field has six cannons spread around the perimeter to spray water at about 800 gallons a minute, Byrne says. Coaches can turn on the water cannons with their smartphones.

After the water is filtered through the field, it is collected through a drainage system and stored along with rainwater in a 15,000-gallon underground tank. That recycled water will be used to irrigate the landscaping around the building, according to Byrne, and should take care of 80 percent of the landscape’s watering needs.

The varsity field hockey team has already christened New Balance Field with a 5–1 win over Ohio University on August 31. Coach Sally Starr recalls that before the new field, her team would have to load buses 80 minutes before “home” games, held at MIT or Harvard. Now, Starr says, her players can relax, walk up on the field 40 minutes before games, and mentally prepare.

“It’s refreshing,” says Starr, who is in her 33rd year as head coach of the Terriers. “The field impacts our ability to play better and recruit top players for future classes.”

BU Terriers women's field hockey vs Ohio University Bobcats, New Balance Field 

New Balance Field makes it possible to bring field hockey back to campus and to add men’s lacrosse to the roster of Terrier varsity teams, as well as to provide practice space for varsity teams and the 8,000 students who play intramural and club sports. Photo by Cydney Scott

Scott Nalette, intramural and club sports manager at FitRec, says having another home field means that club and intramural sports will be able to build a fan base like those of varsity sports. It also will make many early morning and late night practices unnecessary for the 7,000 students who participate in intramural sports during the school year, and the 900 to 1,000 students who play on 33 club sports teams.

New Balance Field also offers space to make men’s soccer and men’s cricket into club teams. Men’s and women’s rugby and men’s and women’s ultimate frisbee also return to campus, after previously being played on fields in the area.

Club soccer president Phil Welsh (SAR’14,’16) says that his team has already held a few practices, splitting practice time between Nickerson and New Balance. Playing on the AstroTurf of New Balance Field is a little different, Welsh says. “We need to run a little harder, but that in turn speeds up our game. It forces us to stay on our toes instead of relying on the equipment.”

Erica Ratti (ENG’15), secretary of the women’s club cricket team, says this year marks a welcome departure from waking up at 7 a.m. Saturday mornings to practice on Nickerson Field. “Now that we have a nice big field that’s open, it’s pretty awesome,” says Ratti. “Now we have practice at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. People are definitely more awake.”