Aiming to be ‘safe at home,’ town seeking recreation aid

Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski/ A new playing surface may be in store for Veteran’s Field.


By Ron Leir

KEARNY – It’s a tie game, runner on second. The batter singles to right and the runner legs it to third, ready to dash home.

But as he rounds the base, his cleat catches in a hole along the baseline and he trips.

An unfortunate scenario, indeed, but one that’s happened more than once at the Little League East field at Kearny’s Gunnel Oval sports complex off Schuyler Ave.

Town officials are hoping to remedy that pitfall – and others – by installing synthetic turf there – and at Veterans Field off Belgrove Drive – if they can manage to finance it.

To that end, the Town Council voted Jan. 10 to apply for state Green Acres matching grants and for Hudson County Open Space funding to facilitate various recreation improvements.

Mayor Alberto Santos said that Neglia Engineering is now preparing an estimate for the turfing of Little League East field and building a track around the center portion of the Oval to submit to Green Acres by next month.

“We expect both of those projects to be in the range of our Harvey Field turf project, which was around $800,000,” Santos said.

If Green Acres agrees to fund the projects, Kearny would have to provide a 50% “match” of the amount funded and repay the state share at a low cost interest rate of probably below 2%, Santos said.

At the same time, Santos said, Kearny will seek $300,000 from the county’s Open Space trust fund to supplement municipal funds already budgeted for these projects: turfi ng of a multi-purpose playing surface at Veterans Field, completion of the Brighton Ave. playground and creation of an outdoor reading garden at the Public Library on Kearny Ave.

Replacing the grass and dirt Little League East and Veterans Field with synthetic turf should very much improve the lay of the land, said Ralph Cattafi , the town’s assistant recreation superintendent.

“It’s ideal,” Cattafi said, “because it cuts the cost of maintenance and it gives you a safer playing surface – it takes away the bad hops.”

No question about it, agreed Councilman Michael Landy, who chairs the council recreation committee. “Once you go turf, maintenance becomes non-existent.”

Photo by Anthony Machcinski/ Little League East fi eld will get turfed if Kearny can line up the fi nancing needed for the job.


As things now stand, Landy said, Veterans Field “gets beat up during football season” and also gets heavy use during the spring when baseball and girls’ softball take over. The fi elds are shared, to some extent, with the Board of Education. Several hundred kids participate year-round, he said.

Currently, the town recreation program operates two turf fields, both for soccer, at Harvey Field, at Schuyler and Bergen Aves., and at Futsal Field on Passaic Ave., Landy said.

“That would be a dream if you could turf everything,” he said. “If we could take care of one fi eld at a time, that would be a tremendous boon. As a high school coach, I would say you get fewer injuries on turf because it’s a flatter surface, you don’t have to worry about bumps or holes or the grass wearing out.”

“Plus it can rain all day and you can still play because there’s no accumulation of water,” Landy said. “They build the drainage underneath, with a layer of gravel above that, and sand over that. On the surface, you’re actually playing on pieces of rubber inside synthetic grass material.”

It can’t happen too soon for Little League coach Dan Elliott, whose team plays at the Oval’s East field.

“That field is dangerous,” Elliott said. “The way the grass and dirt is laid out, it’s not even – there are holes and patches on the edge of the infield grass – and the ball takes bad hops. Last season, a 9-year-old kid playing second base got hit under the eye (by a batted ball). Another kid rounding third twisted his ankle when his foot caught in a trench. The outfi eld grass has patches and little holes where kids can trip.”

Turf would certainly help, Elliott said. “I have played adult baseball on a turf fi eld and it’s like playing on a carpet. And my son, who’s on a baseball travel team, plays on a turf fi eld in Jersey City and he loves it.”

In the meantime, though, Elliott hopes something can be done to make the East fi eld safer. “This is my fourth year coaching on that fi eld and, since I started, it’s been the same (condition).”

Of course, even if Kearny gets the money it’s seeking, it won’t happen overnight.

“By the time the money gets awarded and the plans get approved and the contractor starts working, you’re lucky if you can do something by summer or fall,” Landy said. So it’s almost certain the work will cut into playing time at the Oval and Veterans Field, he said.

“We’ve got to arrange the schedule so the impact will be minimal,” Landy said.

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