SPRINGFIELD, NJ — The boys’ soccer practice usually starts with stretching and other warm-up exercises, not a full sprint in game uniforms.
Yet the Jonathan Dayton High School JV team began their afternoon practice a little differently Monday, Oct. 22, running through a dedication banner to mark the official opening of a new multi-use artificial turf field at Meisel Avenue Park.
Before going through their usual drills, the players ripped through the banner held by several Union County freeholders, Springfield Mayor Richard Huber and recreation officials.
“Today we embark on making sure we’re opening up a turf field that is going to benefit children, not only of today, but in the future,” Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados said in his opening statement before the ribbon-cutting.
For the project, which started in early summer, the natural grass field was replaced with synthetic turf, which has improved surface drainage, and the pole vault, long jump, triple jump and shot put pits were reconstructed.
The field is permanently striped for football, soccer and lacrosse, and new goals for football, soccer and lacrosse were also installed.
“Field time and availability in Springfield is always a problem,” Freeholder Bruce Bergen stated at the dedication. “Turning the field that was grass into a turf field means that this field will be available more times for more kids and activities.”
Granados said that having a turf field, which will last about 10 to 15 years with regular maintenance, is a major advantage for the town.
“The turf field will certainly extend the time of practice and such,” Granados said in an interview with LocalSource. “The quality and condition of the turf compared to grass when you have rain and mud is not even comparable. The rain eliminates a lot of playtime and the county will be able to use the field to practice for a longer number of months.”
Union County Director of Parks and Recreation Ron Zuber agreed that the field will be a great asset to both Springfield and the entire county.
“I played at this field myself in high school and it used to become a big mud puddle,” he told LocalSource. “If someone has a game on Saturday, and it happens to rain that day, they still want to play and this new field will help with that.”
During the past few years, Zuber has been involved with the installation of several turf fields around the county, including in Linden, Rahway and Summit. And while Springfield will certainly benefit from this new field, Zuber said not all towns require them.
“This field is played on every day by various teams so it gets a ton of use,” he said. “We’re really receptive to the individual towns. It’s all about being reactive to the community’s needs.”
Huber, who watched his grandchildren play soccer on the new field just a couple of weeks ago, mentioned that the field has always meant a lot to his family.
“Meisel field has finally been transformed into a state-of-the-art facility,” Huber stated. “This is a very special place for me. I’ve spent many days here watching my two sons grow up playing football.”
The new Meisel Avenue field cost $1.5 million and was built by the Grade Construction Company in Paterson. The original track was not included in the construction as it was considered in good condition.