According to Parks and Recreation Commissioner Peter Perez, work on the project began nearly three weeks ago. Since the weather has been very cooperative since the existing playing field was totally torn up and construction began, Perez believes that the construction crew, Dakota Excavating of Bergenfield, is ahead of schedule.
"They're definitely ahead of schedule and that's good news for us," said Perez, who said he has been monitoring the project on a daily basis since work began.
Perez, who was a baseball standout at St. Peter's College and is one of the coaches in the township's baseball league, said that he takes a lot of pride in assuring that the project goes according to plan.
"The plans are to have all these little nuances which would make any baseball guy happy," Perez said. "I've been working with Guy McCann (the president of the township's Volunteer Baseball League) to see that the project is done right."
That alone means a step in the right direction, that McCann is working with township officials.
"There may have been differences in the past, but we've been working well together now," Perez said. "I'm happy to say that we've put our differences behind us and I consider Guy as a friend now. It made sense that we should combine our efforts and work together."
Perez said that the funding for the project comes from a combination of Green Acres Funding, secured by North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nicholas Sacco, as well as some low interest loans.
"It is of no cost to the township," Perez said.
Perez said that he is particularly happy with some of the aspects of the project. For example, the dugout areas have been made larger, in height, width and length.
"A lot of thought went into it," Perez said. "It was a safety issue having all the kids cramped in a small area. Now, they can sit and watch the game comfortably when they're not playing and be ready to play when they're called upon."
Another aspect to the project that Perez is particularly happy about is the designated on-deck area, which will allow the next batter to practice his swings in a caged area next to the dugout.
"Again, it's a safety factor," Perez said. "There was never any area for the on-deck batter to get ready. You would have to watch the kids swinging the bats next to the dugouts. Now, we'll have a fenced-in area that the player can get ready in there, can exit the area and step right up to the plate."
A retaining wall is also being constructed on the street side of the field. That will help the drainage when it rains. "When it used to rain, our infield would be washed out into 76th Street and down the hill," Perez said. "We're also getting a new drainage and water system that will allow the field to drain when it rains."
Because of the field's prior configuration, rain would cause severe puddles, which could postpone play for days until the sun eventually dried up the rainwater. But the field has been totally revamped and the field will be leveled, which will allow for the rain to naturally fall off the playing surface.
Another reason for the retaining wall was to allow the pitchers to have a safe place to warm up off the playing field. In the past, pitchers used to have to prepare down the foul lines, in possible harm's way from foul balls. "Again, all because of safety concerns," Perez said.
New lighting will eventually be installed as well.
Perez said that the outfield fence will be extended to six feet, instead of four, to cut down on the amount of injuries caused by outfielders running into - and over - the fence in pursuit of fly balls.
Also, to appease the neighbors of the ballpark, who complained that baseballs were breaking windows in the neighborhood, a 30-foot netting will be installed in left field that will keep all possible long drives inside the park.
"We're putting a golf netting, like the ones found at driving ranges, to protect the neighbor's homes," Perez said. "It will give the impression of the Green Monster [Fenway Park in Boston's famed left field wall] and give the kids something to shoot for. We'll measure how high up the nets the balls travel. We'll have some fun while we help the neighborhood."
Perez said that he has been excited about the project.
"I'm really thrilled by it," Perez said. "I'm tickled pink that this is happening. North Bergen has been known as a football town. But we're growing in basketball and soccer. This facility will help our baseball programs as well." Sacco echoed Perez' sentiments.
"It's fantastic," Sacco said. "We were able to secure Green Acres funds to give our children a first-rate facility to play baseball. It's going to be one of the premier ballparks in New Jersey. We've all been working together to see this through."