When Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo was first elected to office in 2003, the county-owned West Side Park was among the worst in the county park system, he recalled Friday during a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the completion of a overhaul of the park.

"We made a commitment to update the playing areas so children here would have the same recreational opportunities as other places - and we fulfilled that promise," DiVincenzo said. "These facilities get a great deal of use by the community and it was time to come back and update the football field, track, and basketball and tennis courts with modern equipment."

The projects included installing new synthetic playing surfaces on the football field and track, updating the basketball and tennis courts with new surfaces and equipment. 

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"It's great to see that people in the community are already taking advantage of the renewed facilities," Freeholder Rufus Johnson said.

United Community Corporation Executive Director Craig Mainor said the community is grateful for the upgrades to the community center, playground and the athletic facilities.

"We couldn't be happier and look forward to continuing our partnership with Essex," Mainor said. 

The football field received a synthetic grass surface and the running track received a rubberized surface in 2006 when the sports complex was first upgraded. The basketball and tennis courts were upgraded with new playing surfaces, equipment and sports lighting in 2004. 

In addition, to the new court surfaces, benches, trash receptacles and drainage upgrades are included. Due to regular use, each of these recreation facilities needed to be replaced.

The football field and track improvements were designed in-house by the Department of Public Works, which also monitored the project.

Landtek Group, Inc. from Amityville, N.Y., received a publicly-bid contract for $848,968 to perform the construction work. It was funded through the Essex County Capital Budget. The project started in early March and was completed in four months.

The basketball and tennis court improvements were designed in-house by the Department of Public Works, which also monitored the project.

Picerno-Giordano Construction from Kenilworth receive a publicly-bid contract for $257,295 to perform the construction work. It was funded with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. The project started in April and was completed in just three months.

Since DiVincenzo has been in office, a number of projects helped to revitalizing West Side Park.

In 2004, a 22-car parking lot was created, the main park entrance was revamped for better access, restroom facilities near the tennis courts were renovated, and the park entrances along 17th Street were enhanced. 

In the spring of 2007, the New Jersey Tree Foundation beautified the park by planting 40 new trees inside the park and along the park's perimeter. 

A synthetic grass baseball field was installed and the locker room and rest room facilities were renovated in November 2007. 

In 2009, a new spray park with climbing apparatus and a synthetic safety surface was developed. 

In 2015, the Community Center received a complete renovation with new flooring, windows, doors, HVAC system and lighting. 

In 2016, the playground was modernized with new equipment and a rubberized safety surface and the parking lot was expanded.