Work has already begun on a $450,000 renovation project at Arricale Field on Highwood Avenue, the home of Weehawken's Cal Ripken Baseball League, which should be completed in time for Opening Day in April.
According to Weehawken Recreation Director Chuck Barone, construction crews are already tearing up the existing field, doing re-grading and resurfacing with new sod, as just the beginning of the extensive project.
"This is the most extensive work we've done to Arricale," Barone said of the facility that was named after Richie Arricale, the long-time recreation director who died in 1982. "That field has always been the pride of the town. We've always received great reviews from others who come and see it. I think the uniqueness of it attracts people. We wanted to enhance it, make it like a little stadium, so the kids could enjoy it and so can everyone else who comes to watch the kids play."
Barone said that the new improvements will include an added building which will be used as an equipment locker room for the coaches, so this way, they don't have to carry the equipment bags in their cars to and from games.
"Each coach will have an individual locker to keep the equipment at the field," Barone said. "It is in addition to the shed we already have there."
The new Arricale Field will also have a press box, and the kitchen to the concession stand is being renovated with more room. A new bathroom facility, up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards, will be added. There will be new lighting, new fencing. What was blacktop around the exterior of the field will now be aesthetic concrete.
The field itself is also being reconfigured.
"We sunk the dugouts three feet into the ground and elevated the bleachers by about a foot, in order to give people a better view of the field," Barone said.
There will also be a new batting cage down the left field line and a new scoreboard. The backstop will also be new, giving more room for the home plate umpire to stand during games.
"We really took a lot of pride in putting this project together," Barone said.
Special grant According to Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, the funding for the $450,000 project came from a $400,000 special legislative state improvement grant, as well as some other funding that was left over from other projects.
"We only have two fields in the town [Weehawken Stadium and Arricale] and we try from time to time to restore them," Turner said. "Arricale Field is used 10 out of the 12 months of the year, not just for baseball. The [Weehawken High School Marching] band practices there. Soccer practices there. There's girls' softball. It's constantly used. We needed a major overhaul of that facility and everything had to be done right."
Turner said that the township did look into the possibility of making Arricale Field an artificial turf facility, but decided to keep it natural grass.
"We want people who are just walking by in the summer to use the field to perhaps throw a ball around with their kids," Turner said. "That was a big request from the neighborhood. We have to keep grass areas in urban areas like that."
Both Turner and Barone are optimistic that the work can be completed by April.
"If the weather holds up, the work should be done," Turner said. "It's really going to be a nice place. It was a nice place before, but this will make it even better."