WEST ORANGE, NJ - Residents driving along Prospect Avenue may have noticed that trees have been razed by the Kelly Athletic Field belonging to Seton Hall Prep. Their removal is the start of the school's final phase of expansion at the Kelly Athletic Complex. The plans in place will include tennis courts, two baseball fields, a practice field, a locker room, refreshment and parking areas. 

The project has caused controversy due to environmental concerns, including the leveling of 1,000 trees on the property and displacement of indigenous wildlife. The property was owned at one time by General George D. McClellan, a Union Army General, raising concerns about historic provenance on the property. Additionally, some of the trees, determined to be over 250 years old, were dubbed the "McLellan Old Growth Forest."

The property was sold to the Prep by SHP President Monsignor Michael Kelly's parents, Edward and Helen, for $1.5 million in 1994. Ultimately the West Orange Zoning Board approved the project with conditions requiring the replanting of 975 trees and keeping 12 acres of natural forest intact.

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TAP into West Orange spoke with Matt Cannizzo, director of Institutional Development at SHP, to get an update on what's going on and where things are headed.

Cannizzo detailed the construction plans, which began mid-November with the clearing of the trees on the property facing Prospect Avenue. That will eventually become the JV baseball field. There will also be a varsity baseball field built on the site. Work is planned to continue through the Winter and be ongoing, with a completion goal of end of Summer 2015.

"In addition to the fields we will also be constructing a detention basin to facilitate drainage," said Cannizzo.

The complex currently houses the Lacrosse field, which will eventually be renovated and renamed after the late Brendan Tevlin, but the project is still in the fundraising stage.

More than two-thirds of the student body at SHP are involved in athletics, and the school has been a competitive force in New Jersey sports for decades, whether football, soccer, lacrosse, or baseball. Cannizzo went on to note that Anthony Verducci Field, the Prep's football field, has not been used for Varsity Football for the past three years. The construction of a science wing at the Northfield Avenue School affected usage of the field, and SHP has been playing their football games at Suriano Stadium, located at West Orange High School, since that time.

"It would be much easier for people to have a visual of what is happening," said Cannizzo, who provided TAP into West Orange with a rendering of the project for the community's review.

It can be viewed here: