For much of the past two weeks, Men’s Soccer Co-Captain Carlton Steinberg ’24 has been waking up at 4:30 a.m. He then drives with his team to Mount Ararat High School for practice at 6:00 a.m.
The preseason for Steinberg and the rest of the men’s soccer team wasn’t supposed to be this way, however. Steinberg was supposed to start at 6:30 a.m., just as he has in years past, but due to complications in the renovations on Pickard Field, the team has been forced to change its practice location.
Instead of practicing on a new turf field, a two-week delay in the renovations to Pickard Field has affected the standard practice locations for some fall athletic teams. Among those impacted are the men’s soccer team, the women’s soccer team and the women’s rugby team. The field is now expected to be completed between September 10 and 15.
“It’s just how sports go. You can’t always get what you want. Nobody wants to wake up at 4:30,” Steinberg said.
The lag in renovations is centered on the construction of a new multi-purpose turf field behind Ryan Field. As a part of the approval for the Pickard Field renovation project, the town of Brunswick required the College to test the turf being used for PFAS compounds.
However, the lab testing for the compounds, Lancaster, Pa.-based lab Eurofins, experienced a delay which meant that the turf couldn’t be laid down until yesterday morning—two weeks later than expected.
Director of Athletics Tim Ryan said while he is disappointed with the delay, he is not surprised.
“With any project of this size and scale, we went into this knowing that we’d have things that would come up that would push our timeline,” Ryan said.
PFAS compounds—also known as “forever chemicals”—were a point of contention during the months-long approval process for the renovations. Residents in homes neighboring Pickard, along with some students, raised concerns about the turf used in the new fields.
PFAS compounds are long-lasting, man-made chemical components that are found in widely sold consumer and commercial products, including nonstick cookware and some cosmetics. These chemicals can migrate to the air, water and soil during production and use. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the chemicals, although not definitively understood to be harmful to humans, may be responsible for health issues in both animal and human populations.
Ryan said that, after testing, it was determined that the levels of PFAS in the turf were standard.
“The college wouldn’t actively put something in place that we believed would be putting our students and community at risk,” Ryan said.
Due to the delay, women’s soccer practice has been shifted to Whittier Field while women’s rugby has been shifted to the existing men’s soccer field. Starting next week, the men’s soccer team will be practicing on Whittier.
Women’s Soccer co-captain Greta Farkas ’24 said that while the renovations have thrown a wrench in the team’s plans, she and the rest of the team have bonded over the change.
“It’s a little disappointing,” she said. “We’ve got a pretty good routine going now. It’s probably brought the team closer together.”
Despite looking on the bright side, Farkas said she felt surprised by the news that they would be practicing at Whittier. Farkas and the team were informed shortly before they arrived on campus last week.
“We thought we would get here, and they’d be done. We weren’t aware before preseason,” she said. “It would have been nice if there was a little more communication prior.”
Renovations of Pickard Field began in April and are set to be completed in December. The renovations include an upgrade and reorientation of both the baseball and softball fields, the creation of a multi-use turf field and the installation of new lighting throughout Pickard, among other improvements.
Despite the setback, Ryan is confident that the project will be finished by its deadline.
“I hope people are excited and will enjoy seeing the transformation that will take place over the next 3 months,” he said. “It’s gonna go from a lot of dirt and piles of dirt to grass and athletic facilities.”
One of the teams looking forward to the facilities is the varsity cross country team. As renovations are underway, the team’s practice course—a one-and-a-half mile loop going through and around Pickard—has been closed off. In addition, the team can’t host any meets at the College.
Co-captain Matt Audi ’24 expressed disappointment at losing the course for the season, but said that he and the rest of the team eagerly await the renovations.
“I’m trying to be positive. I don’t want to be too negative,” Audi said. “It’s not the end of the world, honestly. Do we run around the fields? Yeah, but we run in so many different places.”
Regarding the renovation’s appeal to non-athletes, Ryan said that the renovations will “make the entire student experience a heck-of-a-lot better when completed.”