LIVINGSTON, NJ — The multipurpose turf field recently installed on Madonna Drive for the benefit of Livingston recreation and high school athletes of all ages and sports was officially unveiled as the Saint Barnabas Medical Center Community Field on Monday.
Livingston Mayor Shawn Klein, members of the Livingston Township Council, Livingston High School Athletic Director David Cohen, Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC) staff and other community leaders celebrated at the new education pavilion as athletes spent their afternoon utilizing the field behind them.
“The SBMC Community Field fulfills a truly desired and needed capacity for this town,” said Klein. “A couple of years ago, when you would walk around and talk to people who had school-age children, the biggest complaint that they had was the fields. I have heard nothing but great things now from the parents of those school-age children.”
Working off the efforts of previous councils, the current council finally brought to fruition a vision that was nearly 10 years in the making. The 2008 council, which included members such as Stephen Santola, Gary Schneiderman, Buddy August, Arlene Johnson and Rudy Fernandez, had the foresight at the time to secure the purchase of the land and to one day build a community field upon it.
“If they had not acted, this whole field would no doubt long ago have been turned into high-density housing,” said Klein. “It was Michael Rieber and Al Anthony who were involved in a fateful conversation one day to bring Saint Barnabas along in the project and help make this a reality.”
Klein presented SBMC with a plaque as a thank you for being there when the Township of Livingston needed a helping hand in this process to make the healthiest field possible for the community.
According to Stephen Zieniewicz, president and CEO of SBMC, the RWJBarnabas Health leader is committed to enhancing the health and well-being of the youth in the community—and the new field will be a catalyst to expanding youth athletics in Livingston. Thanks to the $1.3 million donation from SBMC, the new turf field can be utilized for various sports, such as football, soccer, lacrosse and cricket.
“Having the resources and helping launch a field is one thing, but really the partnership that we have with everybody here in town and all of the communities we serve is so important and so special,” said Zieniewicz, who lives in Livingston with his wife. “The comradery, the collegiality and the sense of community that we have is so special, so thank you on behalf of SBMC, our board of trustees and everybody.”
Senior Vice President for Health and Wellness Barbara Mintz echoed his sentiments, adding that she hopes the new field will help Livingston’s young athletes make healthy choices
Cohen, speaking on behalf of all Livingston coaches and the board of education, called the SBMC Community Field a “game changer,” as it means that “kids are getting home earlier, parents are happier as a result and more people are using the field.”
“That truly has become a game changer for us on the high school level…I can’t contain my excitement,” said Cohen, who helped members of the Livingston High School girls soccer team hand out Lancers gear to members of SBMC and the township council.
“This started a long time ago, and in talking to some of the coaches at the high school in my excitement and telling them what was coming, they said, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’” he said. “Now there’s a line outside my door on a rainy day to see who’s going to use the field first.”
On behalf of the township, Klein specifically thanked SBMC members Louis LaSalle, Margie Heller, Justin Edelman, Barry Ostrowsky, Ronald DelMauro and Stephen Zieniewicz for helping “get the ball across the finish line. He also thanked St. Philomena’s Church and Father John, who were “instrumental in the process of land acquisition as well and have been good partners for the town since that time.”
“SBMC’s commitment to this town and its people is long-standing,” said Klein, whose son had his first game on the new field the previous day. “We have an entire next generation of kids who are going to enjoy hundreds of games on this field and all we can do is look around in delight.”
Barry Ostrowsky, president and CEO of RWJBarnabas Health, added in a press release issued by SBMC following the ceremony that the organization’s mission to facilitate positive lifestyle choices will be advanced by the young athletes who develop their skills on this new community field.