CEDAR GROVE, NJ – Dozens of residents attended the Cedar Grove Board of Education meeting Tuesday to share their concerns as to how the Cedar Grove High School baseball team’s season will be handled in light of the scheduled construction to the field at the rear of the high school.
Because the baseball field is adjacent to the construction, it will not be accessible to the baseball team during the renovation which is set to begin in April. When construction is completed, there will be a new turf multi-purpose field with track, concession stand, bleachers and bathrooms. While the baseball field will not be turf, it will be outfitted with a new drainage system.
Resident Lorraine Gauli-Rufo said that the baseball players and parents want to know where the games will be played and where practices will be held for this season and noted her frustration that the baseball field was not being fully renovated.
“We are shut down for the year and when we reopen next year all the baseball field gets is new drainage,” Guali-Rufo said. “There is no good field to use in the interim. Quite frankly we are really upset that the baseball field wasn’t even taken into consideration. Isn’t there a way that this construction can happen and leave our field intact?”
Board President Joe Cicala said though the field would not be turf, it would be a quality baseball field when all is said and done, but using the field during construction simply isn't an option.
“It’s unavoidable because we’re not just building a field, we’re building a facility. And quite frankly it’s not going to be safe for you to go and watch your boys play and it’s not going to be safe for your boys to play there,” Cicala said.
Athletic Director Rob Gogerty said he is exploring options now to find the best solution for the baseball team. Under consideration would be playing all away games this season, playing some home games on other town’s field for instance Verona, and playing games at the field in back of Memorial Middle School. Gogerty said he is discussing all options closely with Coach Randy Nelson and will communicate the final decision within two weeks.
“Conversations are being had we are trying to find the best case scenario for the 2016 season,” Gogerty said. “In the next week or two we are going to have to make that decision and pull that trigger.”
Several residents suggested the construction be delayed to allow the baseball team to have its season. “What you’re asking the baseball players to do is to give up their home season and when they come back they come back to a drain pipe, while football, lacrosse and soccer get a brand new state of the art field,” said resident Rich Williams. “It’s not right. It does show a lack of thought toward the baseball team. You can delay this. Have them wait until June. “
Superintendent Michael Fetherman said waiting is not an option. “If we wait until May we don’t finish until October so then you are affecting spring, summer and fall. The goal was always to finish by September.” he said. “Tough decisions had to be made and the plan is laid out.”
Fetherman also reminded residents that when you enter into this kind of project, sacrifices have to be made in order to complete it.
“When we were talking up the referendum, we were very honest with you. We said if you supported the referendum we would not only thank you in advance, but we would apologize in advance,” Fetherman stated. “Why – because of the great many sacrifices that we all would have to endure. We all knew it was the right thing to do and you overwhelmingly supported that. What I’m a little disappointed in is how quickly you’ve forgotten those conversations about all the sacrifices that we would all have to make to get to where we all want to be.”
With regard to the baseball field, Fetherman explained that not only would the field receive a completely new drainage pattern, the infield had also been resurfaced last year. “Give us some credit here. This board has committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix that drainage problem. Why do you sneeze that?” he asked. “We spent $20,000 to resurface the clay of that infield. That was phase one of what we’ve promised to the student athlete baseball player and it will be a quality field when the referendum is done.”
Board member Frank Mandala said he understood the residents’ concerns, but wished they had voiced them when the plans were being made. “We’ve tried to be transparent though this whole process. We’ve talked about the things that we were planning to do,” Mandala said. “To be honest I would have loved to hear this input a year and a half ago. The board tried to listen. The logistics now are happening and maybe that is where the frustration is coming in. You don’t always realize the impact until things really start to happen. “
Fetherman asked the residents to have faith and promised that he, Gogerty and Principal Rick Mangili were working to find the best solutions for the students under the current circumstances.
“When all is said and done we will have a new multi-purpose field, a new concession stand, new bleachers, new bathrooms and more,” he said. “You’ve got to hang in there folks. This is not going to be the easiest ride. “