Bruins Stadium, which is the home for the high school football team, but is also used by many residents for recreation activities, will receive a total renovation and restoration, beginning at the end of the current high school football season. The changes will include the installation of a state-of-the-art artificial turf playing surface.
The official approval for the restoration came last week, when it was learned that the township received nearly $500,000 from the state in Green Acres funds to begin the project.
The town will receive an additional $250,000 in Green Acres money in November. The town will then pick up the remainder of the estimated $1.5 million restoration cost.
"Because it's Green Acres money, we have to match the funding dollar for dollar," said township administrator Chris Pianese. "We got the approval to start the process to award an architectural contract, and we will go out to bids to do the work by November. This was a major step in getting the work done."
The plan is to have the work begin sometime in January, in order to have the facility's new track and field surface - which is also part of the restoration project - open and ready for the beginning of the outdoor track season in spring of 2003.
Of course, weather will be a factor in getting the work done as quickly as possible. Dry weather is needed to have the rubberized base settle and harden. If there is a dry and warm winter, like the one the area enjoyed last year, then the entire project could be completed in six weeks.
According to assistant superintendent of schools and head football coach Vince Ascolese, the refurbishing of the field, located inside North Hudson Braddock Park, was a major necessity.
"It all started with a simple conversation between Mayor [Nicholas] Sacco and myself," Ascolese said. "He said that there was a possibility to receive some grants to do the field and we just went from there. That facility gets a lot of use. Not only by our football team, but there's the Pop Warner teams that play there. You can't even begin to count how many people use it to jog and run. The place gets enormous use. So it has tremendous impact, not just on us, but for the whole public."
The plans include putting down the artificial turf surface, a softer brand that has been used in Union City, Hoboken and Jersey City. The surface, which is very popular now and has been put down at Bergen Catholic locally, but is also used at Tropicana Field in Tampa, actually features artificial blades of grass, giving it the appearance of grass.
The softer surface will give youngsters a safer environment to play on, with much less of a chance for substantial injuries.
With the artificial turf surface in place, then the North Bergen football team can have regular practice there, without the concern of tearing up the surface. The Pop Warner youth football program can also regularly use it, as well as the high school soccer team for night games.
The restoration will also include a state-of-the-art synthetic running surface, another softer surface that lessens the blow on the legs and joints when people run. The surface will allow North Bergen to actually host track and field events. Currently, there is a cinder-based surface, which does not offer any cushion or support to the legs, and does not offer enough room or size to hold track meets.
"I think it's a great thing," Ascolese said. "We're all ready to go. We're looking at the different types and the cost estimates, but we got the first phase of the funding, so that means we can move forward. We want to be able to give our children the best facility to play on."
"Without a doubt, we're excited about doing this," Pianese said. "It really makes sense. Many other towns are going in this direction. It's very cost efficient and it was really needed."