New turf for soccer field


A municipal play site will be getting an upgrade at no cost to the town.

That’s the good news.

Whether the work will be done in time for the opening of the Kearny Recreation Youth Soccer League is another matter.

Under a grant agreement ratified by the Kearny governing body at a special meeting last Tuesday, Aug. 23, Kearny will be the beneficiary of a $150,000 investment by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, which promotes youth-based soccer programs.

That funding will pay for the installation of a synthetic grass field at the Michael Branin Jr. Memorial Soccer Field (formerly known as Thistle FC Futsal Facility) in Riverbank Park on Passaic Ave. at the foot of Afton Ave.

It was the foundation, recalled town Recreation Director Ralph Cattafi, who put in the original turf field about a decade ago after the town got a similar grant from the foundation.

“That [site] was originally asphalt and we used it prior to the turf, for tennis and basketball courts,” Cattafi said. “Then it was used for Futsal,” he added, until the asphalt was ripped up in favor of turf.

It is now used by Kearny Youth Soccer and by several private teams and residents, “mostly for practice but also pickup games,” Cattafi said. “Every day, there is somebody on that field.”

“For us to go eight, nine years without touching up, I think we’ve been very fortunate,” Cattafi said.

In the past few months, he said, “a couple spots got worn out. Dakota Engineering, the company that installed the synthetic turf, came in July and fixed it.”

But now, with the 10-year warranty running out, it’s time to replace the turf for safety sake, he said.

The last time around, the foundation partnered with the Nike Foundation to underwrite the cost of the installation. This time around, the foundation will be getting assistance from two new corporate partners.

Foundation spokeswoman Jennifer Arnold said the Kearny project “is part of the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Safe Places to Play initiative, which transforms abandoned courts, empty schoolyards, vacant lots and the like into state-of-the-art soccer fields for kids.”

She said the foundation, in partnership with the New York Red Bulls, is also developing a new “mini-pitch” acrylic surface soccer field in Hoboken, at 13th and Adams Sts., under the Viaduct, and a similar one in Valley Stream, N.Y. Mini-pitches are “small, customized areas perfectly suited for organized soccer programs and pickup games.”

The Hoboken facility was scheduled to open Aug. 30, she said.

According to Town Administrator Michael Martello, the Red Bull organization – which owns the Major League Soccer team in Harrison – along with BJ’s – which has opened a new store at the Passaic Ave. mall – are supporting the endeavor and each of the three contributors will have a “sponsor logo” imprinted on the field, along with the town seal.

Martello said that Red Bull wants to expand its corporate presence in Kearny.

Martello said a Red Bull representative “put in a request [to install] a mini-pitch in Riverbank Park,” but the location desired would have involved the excavation of asphalt which, in turn, would reportedly have exceeded Red Bull’s $90,000 budget for the project.

At that point, Martello said he suggested the Branin Field site and now, he added, the company has pledged to partner with the USSF and BJ’s for that field’s re-turfing.

As for possible future involvement in Kearny, Martello said Red Bull expressed interest in pursuing its initial idea for a mini-pitch at an alternate site, possibly the Gunnel Oval on Schuyler Ave. if and when that complex gets a multi-million dollar cleanup and makeover, as planned by the town.

Should Red Bull follow through on that pledge, Martello said it would be “the first such facility in this area” to be developed by the company.

The Observer tried to contact a Red Bull spokesperson for more details but, as of press time, that was unavailing.

Martello said that the foundation anticipates completing installation of the new artificial grass surface at the Branin Field by Sept. 30.

But that timetable – when imparted by The Observer to Cattafi – seemed to catch the rec chief off-guard.

“I wish someone had shared that date with me,” he said. “Sept. 10 is the opening date for our Recreation Youth Soccer league season so I don’t know if we’ll be ready to go by then.”

Several hundred Kearny grammar school-age youngsters, spread among 50 teams, play in the league from early September to the first week of November.

Play areas at Harvey Field and the Oval are used, when needed, to supplement Branin Field, Cattafi said, so it looks as though those sites will be more heavily relied on in the early going.


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