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Brentwood State Park Athletic Field Complex opens

A member of the Brentwood community enjoys one

A member of the Brentwood community enjoys one the eight synthetic turf soccer fields at the new 50-acre Athletic Field Complex in Brentwood. (September 25, 2009) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Seven years in the making, a dust bowl is now a place of pride that Brentwood soccer and baseball teams can call home.

Friday marked the official opening of the Brentwood State Park Athletic Field Complex, which has undergone $15 million in construction since 2002.

The 52-acre park, which once formed part of the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center, now has eight synthetic turf soccer fields and two regulation-size turf baseball diamonds.

The transformation was a collaborative effort. Jerry Wolkoff, a real estate developer, bought the entire center's 460 acres in 2002 and hopes to turn part of it into a residential community.

The same year, he turned over the 52-acre plot that had housed soccer fields, to the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation hoping the barren field on the corner of Crooked Hill Road and Community College Drive could become a state park.

Though the Brentwood State Park first opened to the public in 2003, it took time to secure money to fund the sport facilities' improvements and get through the project's planning stages.

First Sen. Caesar Trunzo (R-Brentwood) and Sen. Owen Johnson (R-Babylon) secured a total of $7 million in state funding to begin the first phase of construction. Trunzo's successor Sen. Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point) and Assemb. Philip R. Ramos (D-Brentwood), later ensured the funding came through.

The Brentwood Soccer League has played several games on the new synthetic turf since completion of the phase's construction earlier this month.

"This is beyond words," Violet Smith, president of the Brentwood Soccer Club, said. "Nothing can express the children's joy and excitement when they get on that field."

Two new parking lots accommodate 285 vehicles. The park also has three buildings for storage, bathroom and comfort areas and concession stands.

More funding is needed for the second phase of development - two more synthetic turf soccer fields and landscaping, including around the perimeter to prevent field lights from disturbing nearby residents.

"Nothing can match the joy of seeing where we were last year and where we are today," Carol Ash, the state parks commissioner said at Friday's ribbon cutting ceremony.

Smith, who also coaches the Brentwood boys U18 premiere team said she used to sympathize with her team that played on an old, worn-out lot. "Now they're proud of where they play."

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