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Ceremony kicks off construction on new John Carroll fields Monday

The long-awaited start of construction on two new artificial turf athletic fields at the John Carroll School was celebrated Monday by leaders of the private Bel Air school, along with town and Harford County officials and representatives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

"We've said all along that this piece of the overall progress at John Carroll is a way to honor the past, all the teams, all the coaches who have been part of our history for a half century, to better serve the students of the present and to pave the way to the future and the best possible athletic experiences for the next generation of Patriots," John Carroll President Richard O'Hara said during a ceremony on Gerry Gray Memorial Field, named in memory of the school's first football coach.

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Representatives of The Dresher Foundation, which was among the many community donors to the project and a strong supporter of John Carroll during its 50-year history, also attended, as did Carol Anne Gray Cassidy, widow of Gerry Gray.

Cassidy, a retired registered nurse who lives in Bel Air, said her late husband, who died in 1995, spent 30 years as a teacher and coach at John Carroll and their three children attended the school. A memorial fund annually provides a $1,000 scholarship to a male and a female student who are part of at least one varsity athletic team.

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"My heart is so happy that the school has remembered Gerry in such a way, and his soul would sing at the thought of this being part of his legacy," said Cassidy, who remains involved with the school and the memorial fund.

"I think it will be a great benefit to John Carroll, because it will attract kids who want to play at a top-notch scholastic and athletic facility," Cassidy said of the new fields.

Captains of the school's football, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer and field hockey teams joined the other dignitaries in placing shovels into a large container of dirt placed on the field to symbolize the groundbreaking of the fields.

"All of these students will have a chance to play on these fields when they come about," Kurt Sudbrink, vice president for institutional advancement, and a 1988 graduate, said.

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Father Stephen Sutton, a member of John Carroll faculty and the clergy at St. Ignatius Church in Hickory, gave the invocation for the ceremony, which also included remarks from Harford County Executive David Craig, County Council President and John Carroll graduate Billy Boniface and Bel Air Town Administrator Jim Fielder.

School officials had hoped to start construction during the summer, but the project was delayed while Bel Air and school officials negotiated over several months concerning the status of a 15-inch sewer main that runs under the two fields. They eventually agreed to relocate the line away from the fields, splitting the $169,000 cost. That work has already started.

O'Hara said construction of the fields is expected to take two to three months, weather permitting, and they should be ready in time for spring sports. He also said the work won't affect the remaining fall sports games.

He said he was feeling "a sense of great anticipation for what it'll mean for our kids and the kind of resource it will also be for the town and the community."

"I think it's great for the student athletes," said Paul Leath, a 1985 graduate who was in town visiting his mother from Chattanooga, Tenn., and attended the ceremony. "I think it's great for the school."

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