PATERSON, NJ - Local leaders, school administrators and coaches, and several student athletes gathered at Buckley Park on Monday to celebrate the completion of a new, state of the art sports field.
Standing on the bright green synthetic turf, Mayor Andre Sayegh touted the regulation-sized football field which can also be utilized for baseball and softball.
“We no longer have to look at other communities such as Bergen, Essex, and Hudson counties,” Sayegh told the audience of about 60 people. “Our young people need no longer travel to another area to play. Now others will be coming to us.”
Sayegh also used the opportunity to tout a yet to be revealed “masterplan” for the city’s parks saying that upgrades to the Lou Costello Park are coming soon.
JFK’s Athletic Director Scott Durham reflected that when his high school started practicing at Pennington, rather than Westside Park, more boys tried out for the team, a trend he hopes will continue as the Knights look to improve on last year’s 6-4 record and state playoff appearance.
“With this new field, even more guys will play football,” Durham predicted. “When you have a team of 90-120 players as opposed to 25 to 75, it really makes a difference.”
Perhaps proving Durham’s prediction to be true were incoming JFK High School seniors Christian Wel, Steven Rojas, and Brandon Curry who were also on hand. Joined by head coach Ron Jackson the trio said they will play varsity football in the fall, making the opening even more special.
Memories of practicing on the rock-strewn baseball field at Westside Park during their freshman season were not among their fondest, the players said. And, while practicing at the new soccer field at Pennington Park was better it was not the same as an actual football field, the three shared.
“I feel good that the new field is finally here,” Wel said, Rojas adding that they expected to hold off their practices on the new turf.
“Now, we have the appropriate lines for wide receivers and defensive backs to gauge distance and depth,” Curry added.
Calling it “an example of responsible government,” Councilman Michael Jackson who represents the First Ward in which the new field is located, lamented that the city has “missed opportunities in the past.”
“We just had four people in the city shot recently. Things like this will get in the way of some of the violence,” Jackson predicted hopefully. “I believe that we are moving forward and will see more things like this.”
“Paterson has 30,000 school aged kids,” Paterson Recreation Director Benjie Wimberly stated. “Everyone knows that idle time is the devil’s workshop. This field will serve to keep kids busy.”
About 200 Paterson children will play on the field every day during this year’s summer camps hosted by the city, he said from the end zone nearest the street. The section, painted red, also doubles as a batter’s box for both baseball and softball.
“The $335,000 project, funded by federal Community Development Block Grant funds, was managed by Montville based Athletic Fields of America which was represented by Stephen Pirro.
Completed ahead of schedule, the new turf, Bobby Cervino of Shaw Sports Turf said, puts the carpet like playing surface on par with those not just at the youth sports level but also the NFL and top colleges across the country.”
The playing field was scheduled to get its first use with both a baseball game and a softball game scheduled for later in the day.