“It was apparent right from the beginning that the JCC would not be able to provide all the facilities for all the sports on site, so we reached out to the colleges and institutions in the area for their help, and they could not have been more welcoming and helpful,” said Mike Paysnick, JCC executive director.
Springfield College will open their courts to this year’s Maccabi basketball tournament with AIC fielding the soccer tournament, and track and field events. Just up Wilbraham Road, and beaming from its new university status, Western New England University will play host to the swimming and tennis competition. The bowling competition will take place at Shaker Bowl with golfers teeing off at Crestview, Twin Hills and Franconia country clubs.
“We are so delighted that these venues are so close by,” said Paysnick. “I’ve been at games where the athletes had to travel 45 minutes between venues. Springfield is so ideal because the athletes, the volunteers and the spectators can get to any location within 10 or 15 minutes.” The close proximity of the venues will also make it easier for this year’s new Maccabi reporters to visit several sites for their reporting.
Paysnick was also proud of the high quality of the facilities the venues could provide.
“This isn’t your middle school gymnasium,” he said. “It also provides the colleges with great opportunities to show off their facilities.”
He said the close proximity of the venues will minimize the time the athletes have to spend on the bus, and will allow athletes who finish their events to hop the bus and become spectators at other venues. He said the JCC will act as the transportation hub of the games so that athletes and coaches can easily return for meals and for other competitions.
He said the organizers at Maccabi Central are now turning their attention to recruiting more volunteers for the venues and for providing logistical support for food, transportation and housing the athletes.
“We are especially in need of host families,” he said. “That is our most pressing need. We are about halfway to finding all the hosts we need.”
Betsy Bertuzzi, co-chair of the JCC Maccabi games, stressed how important it is for the Greater Springfield Jewish community from areas beyond Springfield and Longmeadow including Wilbraham, Northampton, and Westfield, to welcome the young guests and extend their hospitality to the visiting athletes the way Abraham and Sarah opened their doors to strangers.
She wants to dispel the myth that only families with teenagers are appropriate for the visiting athletes.
“I’m constantly refuting the comment ‘but I don’t have teenagers, no one would want to stay with me,’” she said. “There’s no way that we have enough houses with teenagers.
“So the message is: If you have young children, then, YES, housing is for you. Your little kids will love having big kids around. You can bring them to cheer for the athletes when they play their games. If your children are grown and gone, then YES, housing is for you. You have the empty beds, and you can feel young again for a week with teenagers in the house.”
Volunteers are also needed at the various athletic venues and Bertuzzi is encouraging the 20-something generation to step up and be counted. She hopes young professionals will be coming by the venue after work – or take a day off from work – to help out and connect with other young singles, she said.
“This event isn’t just for parents and bubbies,” she said, adding that she is especially hopeful that the entire region can show off its pride during the games.
– Bob and Carolyn Chipkin