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Bluehawk Pride showcased in new athletic facility

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    A view of Hudson’s new facility earlier this summer.
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    A view of Hudson’s new facility this week.
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    A giant Bluehawk marks the 50-yard line.
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    A view of Hudson’s new facility earlier this summer.
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    A view of Hudson’s new facility this week.
July 27, 2017 - 05:31 pm

HUDSON — For the first time in nearly 80 years, the Hudson High football, soccer and track programs will soon have a brand new state-of-the-art facility to call home.

Construction on Hudson’s new ‘Field of Dreams’ is moving along at a rapid pace and will be completed well before the start of the fall season.

The Bluehawks’ football team will begin play on the new turf field on Sept. 1 when it hosts defending state Class B champion Glens Falls at 7 p.m.

“I am thrilled for all Bluehawks and when I say Bluehawks, it’s not just the athletes that are playing on our field now, it’s our alumni, our past athletes,” Hudson City School District Superintendent Dr. Maria Lagana Suttmeier said. “Everyone is a Bluehawk. We saw that when the basketball team went to states that whether you’re a parent, a supporter, alumni, a community member, you’re a Bluehawk because you live in this community. I think this means so much and I am so appreciative of the generosity. To have had a landslide vote for this project and to have the support of the community and the excitement that you can feel outside of our campus for this new field for our athletes, it’s just a thrill as superintendent to know that we’re able to bring this vision to fruition, finally.

“Kids can’t be what they can’t see,” she added. “A district can’t be what it can’t see. To bring our field to this level, to show them that we care about them, that we believe in athletics as part of a well-rounded education, speaks volumes to the students and the community that we believe in ourselves and this is what the Hudson City School District is made of.”

Hudson High School Principal Antonio ‘Tiney’ Abitabile feels the new facility has the power to unify the district.

“It’s something the entire community can rally around,” he said. “It’s something they can see and touch and feel, and I think the community is just as anxious to get out there to run a few laps around the track and jump around on the field as the athletes are. It’s just incredible to see how fast the progress is happening. For the first month it just looked like the piles of dirt just got bigger and bigger and bigger, and now you just go out there and see the progress on a daily basis. It’s really starting to come together and I’m starting to hear it in the community, as well.

“This is just one of those projects that really gets people excited and I’m really looking forward to playing some games out there. I think our crowds have diminished recently, but I think something like this will bring back some people that maybe haven’t been to a game in a couple of years and that helps our teams out and gives us a home field advantage that we always want.”

From 1938 until now, the Hudson High football teams had played all of their home games at what is now known as the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School. Abitabile admitted it will be tough to leave the old field behind, but looks forward to the Bluehawks creating a new set of memories on the new field.

“Every football game I’ve ever played, from Pop Warner all the way up, has been at Barrett Field,” Abitabile said. “It’s the only field I know. I know where the low spots on that field are, the outside of the infield on the visiting sideline. I know all of those spots. It was time to invest in our athletic facilities and I think it makes a ton of sense to put it up here on the secondary campus where all the teams are playing.

“It’s long overdue and I’m glad I’m here to be a part of it.”

Hudson High athletic director Justin Cukerstein admitted an upgrade in the school’s facilities was sorely needed.

“The new field looks great and I look forward to seeing the finished product once the track and pits have been completed,” Cukerstein said. “I’m really excited for the community and the new generation of Bluehawk student-athletes who’ll be able to enjoy and create their own memories at the new facility. For many Bluehawk alum, Barrett Field will always mean a great deal to us and won’t be far from our thoughts on Friday nights in the fall, but a facility upgrade was long overdue, especially the track. We haven’t been able to host meets for many years and it will be great to compete in Hudson once again.

“Having our contests at the high school will also be more convenient for our coaches and athletes and it will prove to be more hospitable to our guests, as well. The new facility is going to look great and it’s something our community can really be proud of. I know our current and future students will really appreciate the upgrade and I’m grateful to my fellow taxpayers for giving these kids a great opportunity to forge ahead with this new chapter in Hudson athletics.”

Abitabile is curious to see if the new facility will attract more students to participate in the school’s sports programs.

Football, for one, has seen a decrease in numbers, which is a trend statewide.

“What does something like this do for a football program, or a soccer program, or any of the teams that play out there? I’m looking at it as a former baseball coach, too, thinking ‘boy, isn’t that going to be nice when there’s two feet of snow on the ground in the middle of March and that field melts quicker than all of the clay that’s surrounding it and you can start long-tossing on the football field.’ So we can get outside quicker, so you’re not having baseball practice for a month inside the gym. I think it’s important that people know that this isn’t just about three Friday night football games. There’s more to it than that. This is about our entire athletic program.”

Suttmeier said there was some discussion whether to go with a turf field or natural grass, but after receiving input from the community, decided to go the turf route.

“We had a parent come to one of our board meetings and we were discussing turf or grass and we had a parent stand up and say ‘there’s a saying — go big or go home.’ Boy, we are going big, and I’m so glad that we are because I think this will live on way beyond my leadership and the youth of the community and the students that will come for years on end. This is the pride of the community now. Talk about Bluehawk Pride.”

Putting together a plan for the new field/track was a huge undertaking, but Suttmeier said it’s been smooth sailing.

“People across the country, people that have graduated and moved on, but still have ties to this community are amazed by what we’ve been able to do. We’re doing it right, thankfully, with the support that we have, and with the scenic view of the Catskill Mountains, I truly believe that this is going to be a destination field,” she said. “I’m very proud of our school district and the progress that we’ve made. It’s one thing to concentrate on the academics, and certainly we’ve been doing that, but there comes a time when you also have to concentrate on the physical attributes of your school and invest in the future of your district and the future of your children. I commend our district for doing that. This is a big moment for Hudson.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is currently being planned to officially open the new field the week of the homecoming football game, Sept. 25-29.

“We have a cross-section of the community from the school district and outside the school district of interested parties and we are in the process of planning our ribbon-cutting ceremony,” Suttmeier noted. “We have a lot of people coming to the table with ideas of what that’s going to look like. We want it to be meaningful. We’re talking about bringing closure to Barrett Field, first and foremost, most likely at the bonfire on the 27th and then planning an opening of the new field after that with music and some ceremonious celebration.”

Suttmeier also praised George Keeler and his custodial staff at Hudson High for taking on added responsibilities this summer that are necessary to prepare the field for its big debut on time.

“We are busy every summer. Every school district is humming over the summer to get the buildings ready for September, you don’t shut down,” Suttmeier said. “This year they are working tremendously hard, not only to move our Grade 2 classrooms to the newly renovated rooms at the intermediate school, but also everything else with the deliveries that are happening and the trucks coming in and out and the field and keeping up with all of that. It’s a tremendous workload on Mr. Keeler and his staff. They’ve had a banner summer of progress and work they’ve been able to accomplish.”