Nickerson Field was abuzz with happy graduates and their families and friends during Sunday’s sun-dappled Commencement exercises. But this summer, the entire area will be demolished — to make way for a four-lane track and a larger field with new turf.
“The turf on Nickerson Field has outlived its life,” says Colleen McGinty, executive director of construction services in the department of facilities management and planning. “Although it’s only seven years old, the rips and tears pose serious safety issues to the teams that practice there on a daily basis.”
Over the summer, two contracting companies — North American Site Developers, Inc., and Northeast Turf — will install a 400-meter track, replace the turf on the field, and demolish the large concrete platform where speakers and dignitaries sit during Commencement. All improvements will be completed by August 1, 2008.
The new turf, called FieldTurf, is essentially a soft, synthetic grass, says Drew Marrochello, deputy director of the athletics department. “Years ago, our athletes played on AstroTurf, which caused abrasions and other injuries,” he says. “But the rubber underneath the FieldTurf will provide a very nice cushioning.” Unlike grass, the FieldTurf will require little maintenance.
Aside from hosting Commencement exercises, the Splash! fair of move-in weekend, and the annual ROTC Pass in Review, Nickerson Field doesn’t get much use for nonatheletic venues, according to McGinty. “The lacrosse, soccer, and intramural sports teams currently use it as a practice venue,” she says, “but our vision is to return the field to an athletic facility that will accommodate our track and field teams as well.”
The new track will not have a rubberized surface, but McGinty hopes that one will be installed at a later date. “We decided to redo the track’s ground surface now, because we don’t want to damage the turf later on,” she says.
Other changes are in store as well, including removal of the platform. A temporary plywood version was erected when President George H. W. Bush delivered the Commencement address in 1989; a permanent platform was constructed a year later and has been used at the event ever since.
“The problem with the platform is that it greatly limits the use of the track,” McGinty says. “It really doesn’t make sense to keep something that is used only one day out of the year.”
Eliminating the platform will increase the width of the field from 72 to 75 yards and will allow for a larger soccer field and better corner-kick dimensions, McGinty says.
Nickerson Field will continue to host the University’s Commencement ceremonies, according to Peter Fiedler, vice president of administrative services. “The 2009 Commencement Planning Committee has proposed that the Commencement celebrations be broken up over the entire weekend, rather than having everything take place on Sunday,” he says. “But the main event will still take place at Nickerson Field. There’s really no other campus venue that is large enough to accommodate so many people.”
More than 90 years old, Nickerson Field is steeped in local sporting history. Originally called Braves Field, it was built in 1915 and was the home base for the Boston Braves of the National League until 1952, when the team moved to Milwaukee. During the 1915 and 1916 World Series, the Boston Red Sox played on Braves Field, and in 1932, the NFL’s Boston Braves, later called the Boston Redskins and now known as the Washington Redskins, played their inaugural season on the field.
Although BU purchased Braves Field in 1953 and renamed it Nickerson Field, it still hosted numerous professional sports teams, including the AFL’s Boston Patriots — now the New England Patriots — who played there from 1960 to 1962. The currently inactive Boston Breakers professional women’s soccer team played there from 2001 to 2003.
The University’s Commencement ceremonies have taken place on Nickerson Field — rain or shine — since 1954.
Vicky Waltz can be reached at email@example.com.