Kearny Futsal Facility gets facelift courtesy of Red Bulls; US Soccer Federation, BJ’s Warehouse also chip in


Connor Lade grew up in Morristown before he became a fan favorite member of the New York Red Bulls.

And Lade never had the chance to practice and play on a facility like the one located in Kearny on Passaic Avenue, the Futsal Facility that has been in operation since 2009, right around the time the Major League Soccer franchise moved into neighboring Harrison.

“It’s incredible to have a venue like this for kids to hone their skills,” Lade said last week, after a new FieldTurf surface was unveiled officially. “More and more, these kinds of facilities pop up and they breed more talent. It’s better for the community and it’s better to produce more soccer legends here in Kearny.”

The official unveiling of the new surface took place at a press conference, attended by representatives from the partners in the project (the Red Bulls, the United States Soccer Foundation and BJ’s Wholesale Club, which just opened its brand new Kearny location on Passaic Avenue a few weeks ago).

Shep Messing, the television analyst for the Red Bulls and former standout goalkeeper during his playing days, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event that was attended by Red Bulls favorites Lade and backup goalkeeper Ryan Meara.

The Futsal opened, with the backing of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, seven years ago and has been one of the most popular sites for soccer activities, not just for free recreation for soccer enthusiasts of all ages, but also as a location for the town’s vast youth soccer population to practice in a safe, secure, closed-in environment.

However, the original surface had worn down considerably over the last seven years and was in need of refurbishing.

The Red Bulls stepped in, received some assistance from the new business located down the block and the overall soccer federation.

The actual price tag for the renovation was not released.

The project was just part of the Red Bulls and U.S. Soccer Foundation’s ongoing commitment to offer safe places to play soccer in communities across the New York/New Jersey area, to provide a soccer environment that has unstructured play within the local communities in order to support the continued growth of the sport.

Meara appeared to be a shining star when he was drafted by the Red Bulls several years ago out of Fordham University, where Meara recorded a school-record 31 shutouts.

A year after graduating from Fordham, Meara became the toast of the town, starting the first 18 games of the 2012 season in goal for the Red Bulls and was well on his way to possibly earning Rookie of the Year honors when he suffered a hip injury that required season-ending surgery. Meara’s injury opened the door for current net minder Luis Robles and Meara has not played an MLS game with the Red Bulls since the injury. Meara did play one game for NYCFC on loan last season.

Meara was glad to be a part of the festivities last week.

“I grew up in Yonkers and I was just saying that I wish we had something like this when I was a kid,” Meara said. “It just shows you how much the game is growing. There’s more of a demand for facilities like this in the cities. It’s fun to see the kids kick the ball around and having fun.”

Marc de Grandpre, the general manager of the Red Bulls, said that the kids of Kearny can dream big playing on the facility.

“Hopefully, one day, one of these kids might end up playing for the Red Bulls,” de Grandpre said to the 100 or so youngsters in attendance. “We have no two better examples of what the game is all about than the Red Bulls who are here. They do it on and off the field. They are constantly giving back and encouraging young kids.”
Lade mentioned the heroes that come from Kearny, namely Tony Meola, John Harkes and Tab Ramos, all three either played for or coached in the Red Bulls’ organization.

“This is the Mecca of New Jersey soccer,” Lade said. “Growing up, Kearny was a soccer powerhouse where legends were born. You can’t ask for anything more.”

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos was also glad to be a part of the ceremonies.

“We’re very appreciative of this facility,” Santos said. “Kearny is a community with a sense of belonging. This is a facility that young children can be proud of and senior citizens can be proud of. Kearny has a community that allows its residents to achieve their goals. Kearny also has a rich soccer tradition and we want to continue it. This field will certainly get a lot of use. I hope it is a place, a field of dreams for many more to come.”

Santos said that he takes personal pride in the town’s recreational programs.

“Of course, soccer is No. 1,” Santos said. “Everyone plays soccer here. This is a wonderful thing for our residents. Kids play here year round and soccer is the No. 1 sport here.  This field is always in demand.”

And now, the field will be in use for many years to come, thanks to the Red Bulls and their partners.  

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”