NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - On a Friday night in September 2011, more than a thousand residents and visitors were electrified by the borough’s first ever football game played on synthetic turf under lights.
That inaugural event didn’t come easy, requiring extraordinary efforts from a handful of dedicated residents, scores of volunteers, participation from various recreational groups, generous contributions from local businesses including materials and labor and grant money.
A major player in the effort was the Borough of New Providence who used its borrowing power to issue a $110,000 bond to be repaid in its entirety, with interest, by the New Providence Athletic Foundation.
Four years after the foundation used its fundraising prowess to install a $660,000 synthetic turf at the High School’s Lieder Field, the organization turned its attention to lighting the field.
The total cost for the lighting project was $233,000. Fund-raising and a $50,000 grant from the Union County Kids Recreation Trust Fund left the organization $110,000 short of its goal.
With a proven track record and strong commitments for funding from local sports organizations, the foundation approached the Borough Council to strike an agreement for an extraordinary partnership.
After only three years (the foundation was given ten years to repay the obligation), members of the organization presented the Borough Council with a final payment of $24,072.
The check was presented by Bill Harvey, Kathleen Pellas and Allison Smith who have a long history in local recreation programs.
“Turf’s up and the lights are on,” an obviously overjoyed Smith told the council.
Several years ago, resident Alan Lesnewich, now a state superior court judge, was approached by the high school’s athletic director Don Carpenter who lamented the condition of the high school’s grass fields due to overuse and inclement weather causing frequent suspension of practices and games.
Jim Madden, now a borough councilman, recalled that Lesnewich started the Athletic Foundation and quickly recruited Harvey, Pellas, Smith and himself to raise funds for a synthetic turf field.
Madden said that a Recreation Master Plan completed in 1996 recommended the addition of 19 new fields to satisfy anticipated recreation demand.
“It wasn’t a practical approach since the borough covers 3.64 square miles with no open space,” Madden said.
He added there are obvious soil issues with poor drainage on land located between a river and a mountain range.
“The more hours we could push toward a turf field would reduce impact on grass fields which would not decay as quickly as in the past,” Madden said.
The councilman said that usage of Lieder Field is easily pushing 1,700 to 1,800 hours per year. The biggest user of the field is the New Providence High School Marching Band.
Last year, the borough completed an extensive renovation of Hillview Field located on Central Avenue which consists of a combination of turf and grass. A similar approach is under discussion for Lincoln Field located on Elkwood Avenue.
Looking back at the foundation’s accomplishments at Lieder Field, Madden said, “We always thought that this was a remarkable achievement completed by a remarkable group of individuals.”