Simmtober Stories: Your Move

October 07, 2016

soccer players on field

September 10 marked the celebratory ribbon cutting of the newly renovated Daly Field. What was a bare, neglected field unfit for use is now a state-of-the-art athletic facility with multipurpose synthetic turf fields for football, field hockey, soccer, softball, and lacrosse, plus six tennis courts. The transformation of Daly Field happened thanks to strong moves—and tough decisions—by Simmons College, fueled by a deep commitment to serving our students and the greater Boston community.

This transformation began with a partnership between Simmons, the Allston-Brighton community, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Together, they envisioned Daly Field as a safe, high-quality facility for athletes from Simmons, Brighton High School, and the Allston-Brighton Little League as well as the general public. This required a substantial investment to serve these various purposes. Daly Field’s proximity to the Charles River required strict monitoring of water runoff and chemicals and materials on the field. Synthetic turf replaced the natural grass, saving up to a million gallons of water needed for maintenance and reducing contaminants from fertilizers and pesticides. The use of synthetic turf, however, raised another environmental concern.

Synthetic fields are usually filled with small bits of rubber recycled from tires and other sources to simulate the feel of grass. While the renovation was under design, the federal government opened an investigation into the potential carcinogenic risks of using this material on athletic fields. President Helen Drinan and the Board of Trustees made the bold—and expensive—decision to eschew the rubber for an organic product made of coconut husks and cork. Professor Rich Gurney, a chemistry professor who studies toxic substances in consumer products, praised the decision in the Huffington Post: “Simmons has assured that Daly Field will be the greenest and cleanest public playing field in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

The move by College leadership to invest in Daly Field serves as a model for our students on many levels. Strengthening the athletics program is a key strategy for improving student outcomes as student-athletes are typically among the best students academically, and women in executive positions around the world report that sports positively influenced their leadership abilities. Simmons did not complete this project alone; the College established significant partnerships with the Allston-Brighton community, elected officials at the city and state level, and many others. Student Government Association President Taylor Lewis said in their remarks at the Daly Field Ribbon Cutting, “This is the example of community building that I want to follow.”

President Drinan’s decision to prioritize safety and the environment at Daly Field, even when it meant incurring additional construction costs, showed our students and the world that it is important to think of the broader impact of our actions. President Drinan's leadership on protecting athletes from potential health risks is consistent with her public advocacy on behalf of cancer prevention, for which she will be honored by the Silent Spring Institute at the group’s October 18 gala. Silent Spring investigates links between chemicals in our everyday environment and breast cancer. President Drinan will be joined at the event by several Simmons students who have stepped up as advocates of consumer safety and awareness of toxic substances after taking Professor Gurney’s class.

While the process of renovating Daly Field has been a long and complicated journey, the results will last even longer. Simmons will continue to make moves that transform the lives of our students, friends, and community members for the better.