Northeastern to build field hockey facility in Dedham

By Andy MacDougall, News Correspondent

Northeastern is building a new AstroTurf field hockey pitch at the site of its outdoor track and field complex in Dedham. Above: A rendering of the facility was posted to the field hockey team’s Facebook Page. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

It’s been a long time since head coach Cheryl Murtagh has been able to schedule a field hockey practice on her own accord. That’s because for well over a decade, Murtagh and the Northeastern Huskies called Wentworth Institute of Technology’s Sweeney Field their home.

Between Northeastern field hockey games, Wentworth men’s and women’s soccer games, practice time for all three teams and Wentworth intramural sports, Murtagh and the Huskies were left with very little flexibility as to how and when they could conduct practice.

But as of next fall, the Huskies will have a home – a real home – to call their own.

In a meeting with The News last week, Northeastern Athletic Director Peter Roby confirmed plans for a new field hockey facility in Dedham, at the site of the Huskies’ track and field facility, which will be ready in time for the 2013 season.

“We’ve already started construction,” Roby said. “Where we have Solomon Track in Dedham, the internal portion of the field was grass and we’re converting that to Astroturf, and we’re in the midst of doing that right now so they have a permanent home.”

A rendering posted to the field hockey team’s Facebook page shows elements of of the design that players and fan can expect to see at the field next year.

This past season, Wentworth changed Sweeney’s turf from Astroturf to Fieldturf. The move made nomads of the Huskies, who are required to play on Astroturf as a Division 1 field hockey program.

As a result, Northeastern was forced to split their practice and home game locations among schools in the region that had Astroturf in place. While the majority of their games were on the road, they practiced at Boston College and Bentley University while playing games at BC, the University of New Hampshire and Harvard College.

“I know Cheryl Murtagh is really excited,” Roby said. “I know the women on the team when we were announcing that that was our plan were really excited about it, and we can’t wait to get them situated. We’ve got a solution for them.”

The Huskies used their eviction to their advantage, acknowledging that no true home field advantage meant they couldn’t rely on games at Northeastern to carry them in the Colonial Athletic Conference.

While essentially playing an entire season on the road, the Huskies pushed to a 14-7 record and their second-consecutive berth in the NCAA tournament. Even without CAA Player of the Year, senior forward Crystal Poland, sidelined with an injury, Northeastern pushed the fourth-ranked University of Connecticut to the brink before falling in overtime, 2-1.

It’s not known what the final cost will be on the project, but the plans encompass more than just putting in new turf.

The facility at Solomon Field will be renovated over the next nine months to better accommodate the field hockey and track programs as well. The university will install locker rooms for both visiting and home teams and public restrooms in Barletta Hall, which is adjacent to the field.

“We’ll have one of the best fields in the country for field hockey,” Murtagh, who yesterday was named the Division 1 Northeast Region Co-Coach of the Year for the eighth time in her career, said.

“It’s a little off campus, but it’s our field, and it’s a beautiful field,” Murtagh said. “We’ll be able to play games at the times we want, we’ll be able to practice when we want to practice, we can run clinics for the community and help people know more about Northeastern field hockey. I couldn’t be more happy about it.”

The final product may be several months away, but Murtagh and the field hockey team are excited that come next fall, for the first time in a long time, there will be a black and red “N” painted at midfield.

“[The field] has the NU brand on it, and that’s the most significant thing,” Murtagh said. “It’s been 12 years since our field hockey team has played on a field that has had their name on it, that has a locker room that has their name on it. That’s what’s so impressive to me right now, and it’s exciting for our team.”