RARITAN, NJ - The Raritan Borough Council, in a 4-3 vote that required a tie break from Mayor Charles McMullin, voted to cancel the contract that allows Dynasty Softball Events LLC to use the baseball fields at the Washington School, on First Avenue.
The organization will be able to hold its event this June, but not in future years.
Council members were split on whether to allow the event to continue, particularly with plans for new sports teams like soccer and cricket, and concerns over the upcoming demolition of the Washington School.
McMullin said that with the creation of the new sports committee in the borough, they are looking to create a number of new options, including soccer, cricket and lacrosse, with the potential for re-purposing the baseball fields that are currently used by Dynasty for the yearly event.
“The issue is if we are going to have a baseball field and not use it,” he said. “It comes down to what is in the best interest of the borough relative to those fields, and what we understood is that we do have a need for other types of fields.”
Councilman Paul Giraldi said he wonders if it would make sense for the borough to see if there could be some monetary compensation from Dynasty for the use of the fields. Currently, the contract with Dynasty stipulates that the company performs improvements to the fields in return for use of them.
But, Giraldi said, he would like to see the tournament continue in future years.
“It was quite entertaining last year, free entertainment, no complaints,” he said. “For a couple weekends a year, it was quite a nice thing for Raritan.”
Families came from all across the country to be part of the tournament, but council members acknowledged that it was difficult to take advantage of so many people coming to town.
“I don’t think we jumped on the chance to really use it,” Giraldi said. “We don’t have a hotel, but I would hate to see it go away, Raritan doesn’t have a lot to offer in a lot of different areas.”
“I do acknowledge there would be some issues with the demolition and parking, but I would hate to see the event go away,” he added.
Councilman Robert McGinley said he believes that particularly when the demolition of the Washington School begins, there is going to be no parking.
Giraldi acknowledged that it would be difficult with the demolition, but maybe there is something to be done to make the event more profitable for Raritan.
“The demolition of the building is something we have to work around, but that is a one-time shot,” he said, adding that if the event is gone, it will not come back. “The fields were not being used, and, even if we put in a soccer field, we could put the goals in any time.”
Giraldi added that it would be beneficial if they had people promoting the restaurants in town to all the people coming from around the country.
“Maybe we could have some residual business,” he said.
For McMullin, he wondered what the business purpose of having the event in Raritan is, as well as whether keeping baseball fields is consistent with what they want to do with the fields.
“We have to do something different to provide sport opportunities for what people are playing now,” he said. “I think it comes down to what is in the best interest of Raritan with use of those fields.”
McMullin said there has been a strong interest in soccer, as well as an interest in cricket with the corporate population.
McGinley did note that Raritan is currently working on an agreement with Bridgewater for soccer and other teams, but not for baseball and softball.
“I just want to make sure we need the fields before we do something and then don’t use the fields,” councilman Zachary Bray said.
With McGinley, council president Denise Carra and councilman Nicolas Carra, along with McMullin providing the tie-breaking vote, the council opted to not allow the tournament to be played on the Raritan fields after this year.