Hillsborough Solidifies Partnership with Proposed Indoor/Outdoor Sports Facility

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Artist's rendering shows the proposed APEX Sports & Events complex. Credits: Courtesy Apex Land Associates
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HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The Township Committee approved two ordinances at its Tuesday night meeting sealing its partnership with  the developer of a proposed 210,000 square-foot indoor/outdoor sports facility planned for a 40-acre parcel adjacent to Mountain View Park.

The first ordinance authorizes a lease agreement with Apex Land Associates for an outdoor synthetic turf field to be installed at the planned complex on Mountain View Road for the exclusive use of township sports organizations; the second ordinance authorizes execution of a five-year tax exemption and abatement agreement with Apex.

The designated township turf field will provide 400 hours of reserved prime time for the Hillsborough Township Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, Hillsborough-based 501(c)3 organizations will be able to rent playing time at 50 percent of typical rental rates on the field. There will be two additional outdoor fields.

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The Apex project will be built adjacent to Mountain View Park.a 369-acre outdoor sports complex owned jointly by the township and Somerset County, dedicated in April, 2017.

As was the township/county complex, Apex will be built on remediated property that had been part of the Belle Mead Government Service Administration Depot, formerly owned by the federal government.

Extensive remediation work remains to be done on the site, including capping the soil that was contaminated when the GSA facility was active.

Presently owned by the Somerset County Improvement Authority, Wilkie will purchase the property if the Apex facility is approved by the Planning Board and Township Committee. Once the property title is transferred, and development begins on the site, Wilkie will be required to make graduated payments to the township for five years before the property is taxed at full value, according to Mayor Gloria McCauley.

If the project is approved and the title is transferred to Wilkie, the developer will turn over a 19.5-acre tract of property on Hillsborough Road to the county where he had originally proposed to build the Apex complex.

More than a dozen residents offered comments on the proposal before the Township Committee voted unanimously in favor of both ordinances.

The project has overwhelming support; two petitions are posted on the change.org website. As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, there were 804 signers in favor of the proposal, with 61 opposed, a better than 10-1 margin in favor.

The Committee also voted unanimously March 13 to designate Apex as the redeveloper of the property.

Apex owner and developer Gregg Wilkie is a township resident and owner of  HRC Gym and Fitness Center at 30 Brower Lane,  a family fitness and wellness gym, offering programs and amenities for children, adults, and seniors.

Wilke and his development team met with the township Environmental Commission Monday night and will submit their proposal for a review with the Township Planning Board April 5.

A variety of concerns were expressed during the Environmental Commission meeting by neighbors who will be impacted by the facility, including the height of the dome, storm water runoff, potential spillover of lighting and noise from the fans that will be used to inflate the dome and the need for a buffer around the property to minimize the visual impact of the dome; crowd noise at the outdoor fields, and the expected increase in traffic. The facility will have parking for  668 vehicles.

The Environmental Commission will prepare a report and recommendations that will be submitted to the Planning Board for its deliberations; there was a lengthy discussion about creating a berm and planting trees on the berm to help minimize the visual impact of the domes on nearby residents.

The centerpiece of the project will be the indoor facility that includes two inflated domes and what Wilke described as a hard shell building.

The larger of the two domes will be six stories tall, and will enclose a full-size indoor soccer field, also suitable for lacrosse and football.

The smaller dome, which will be four stories in height, will be used for training programs, workouts, and fitness training. There will be indoor basketball and volleyball courts, batting cages and pitching tunnels, a mezzanine viewing area, café and concessions area, multi-purpose rooms, team rooms and space for other activities, including a kids’ adventure area with rock climbing and other family-friendly activities.

Wilkie said he and his team are eager to work with township officials and residents to minimize any negative impacts.

“I think we’ve had positive, healthy discussions, including with some of the residents who brought  valid concerns,” Wilkie said. “We definitely want to have a conversation with them, we’ve already started a dialogue and want to continue that dialogue to make sure we’re doing the right thing.

“We’re interested to hear from public. We want their suggestions,” he added. “We want this project to be integrated and not to be intrusive at all.”

Apex will compliment the adjacent Mountain View Park facilities, creating a massive sports and recreation destination not only for township sports leagues and clubs, but for similar organizations from surrounding towns and throughout the state. It will rival similar facilities in New Jersey, according to Wilkie.

 “This type of facility will play a key role in satisfying the need for additional sports activities for our residents,” McCauley said.

“Somerset County was thrilled to bring the Mountain View Park facility to fruition, we hope Hillsborough and other area residents take advantage of the sports and recreational opportunities. We know that having Apex right next door will provide a combined second to none sports environment,”said Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caliguire, liaison to the Somerset County Parks Commission.

Wilkie said the idea of Apex started five years ago while he was with his kids on the lacrosse and soccer fields.

“My wife and I were exhausted from spending so many hours each weekend on the road traveling to towns throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania so they could participate in their sports,” he said.

“At Apex, our mission is to create a state-of-the-art unique competition and training facility for Hillsborough that serves the year-round sports and recreation needs of local families while promoting a healthy lifestyle for the community and assisting in the development of our young athletes. We intend to open the outdoor turf fields in the spring of 2019 and the indoor complex later that year.”

 “Our local sports families are currently traveling to other towns including Flemington, Branchburg and Bridgewater to name a few in order to find field and court space to support their teams’ practices and games. A sports and recreation facility such as Apex has long been the talk of the sports clubs in town, and we are very excited to keep our families local and playing in a premiere facility located in Hillsborough,” said Jamie Moore, Director of Jr Raiders Youth Sports Inc. at the March 13 meeting.

He was joined by Rick Mantz, director of High School Relations for the Rutgers Football Team and Hillsborough High School graduate.

“The need for this kind of facility in Hillsborough cannot be overstated. Sports and recreation are vital to the overall health and well-being of our youth. All over the country I see communities creating facilities that offer these opportunities, and it’s great to hear that Apex will bring them to Hillsborough. Mountain View is the perfect location for this indoor and outdoor athletic complex,” Mantz said.

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