HOLMDEL, NJ - Holmdel is a competitive town in many ways. One of the top areas is sports. From a winning football and soccer program to dominance in tennis and other activities, Holmdel plays to win. The four candidates running for Holmdel Township Committee are playing to win as well. During the recent CILU candidate forum, they all had an opportunity to answer a pointed sports question from the co-moderator, Regina Criscione:
"What is your position on the expansion and lighting of sports fields including natural and artificial turf?" said Criscione. The question has been an important one in the last few years and voters were able to get a sense of where each candidate stood.
The first to respond was Mike Jenkins, who is running as a Democrat.
Jenkins said, "So I recently spoke with former Mayor Larry Fink about what his thoughts are on the topic, and then he shared some insight. I personally don't think we need to spend millions of dollars on a new turf field especially considering COVID right now. Given the current situation, we need to put any talk of a new sports field of any sort whether that be natural or turf on the back burner." said Jenkins.
"We need to potentially consider how to increase capacity when the time comes if it's deemed that we need to do something like that and when the time comes we need to consider increasing the capacity in a cost-effective way and Larry Fink shared that he was able to put 14 fields in place for I want to say less than $50,000 so if we can increase capacity in new and inventive ways that are fiscally responsible, you know, that's that's something that we should consider." said Jenkins.
DJ Luccarelli is running as a Republican and was posed the same question, "We have Cross Farm which is a very large complex and I think a lot of times people have the perception that 'we don't need anymore - we have so much already - let's work on maintaining what we have' and I think what people miss is that the benefits and the reasons why towns put in artificial fields are for completely different reasons - you can have 30 soccer fields but if you get 2 inches of rain, and they are all wet and muddy and you can't use them, what good are they?"
"I think it's important, and I am not saying it is something that has to be done right now. I'm absolutely for it when the time is right. It's obviously part of a much larger discussion - I would also be open to talking about including that with the recreation center - with maybe an indoor basketball court or something that can be used by our youth. It's a much larger conversation. But I am for turf fields and I think it will be appropriately used where and when we do it is obviously a whole other conversation."
Joe Romano, who is running as a Democrat, said new turf fields need to be looked at through a post COVID lens and that it was not a 'smart play in 2021' to be considering new fields. Romano said, "personally I played on artificial turf a long time ago and I don't like it. It's hard for me to stay objective about it because it did a number on my knees and back."
"But that being said I had a nice discussion with Larry Fink (former Committeeman and Mayor) as well and he said one of the hardest things that even when you don't like something you have to stay objective. I think it's just one of those things...I don't think it's a good idea right now. I think it's something that should probably be brought back to the Township at a later time for a vote."
Greg Buontempo, running for re-election as a Republican, said "You overlay two things on top of your question. One is the recreation survey which we did a few years ago and two is the COVID pandemic. It changes some of the dynamics of what you want to offer. People want to get active in town - they want to be active - not everything is field related - we lost our tennis courts a few years ago. I think we have some holes (needs) in our fields and lighting that we need to fill. I think basketball needs more public places to utilize - I think tennis. We don't have a tennis court in town (there is a county owned court at Holmdel Park)." said Buontempo. I think there're recreational needs that we can start filling fairly inexpensively and continue to provide our residents with access to not only our open space parks but the socially distanced sports like tennis and pickle ball and possibly basketball if people can get outside and play and get out of the house to change thed ynamics of what we may be dealing with as we get into the winter if the pandemic does spike up again." said Buontempo.
The campaign is entering its final weeks. Election Day is November 3rd.