Holmdel Scraps Concept Plan in Exchange for Upgrades

October 15, 2018
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By Natalie Anzarouth |

HOLMDEL – A time-out has been called on a multimillion dollar concept plan to enhance sports fields at Phillips Park, presented to the public just two weeks ago.

At Tuesday’s township committee meeting, Holmdel Youth Athletic Association (HYAA) representatives presented their own list of ways the township and board of education can invest in fixing up existing facilities used by the township’s basketball, baseball, softball, lacrosse and wrestling programs to serve its youth and volunteers.

The list of problems and priorities as an alternative plan to Phillips Park improvements seemed to satisfy township elected officials, as well as several members of the public who had been critical of costs and choice of plan at the Sept. 25 meeting.

Mayor Tom Critelli, offering his support to HYAA’s plan, said the township governing body had not done enough to support youth athletic groups in the community, but would be sure to do better. “I have the full backing of the committee when I say we’re going to move forward with the recreation recommendations and pause on the Phillips Park project at this time,” Critelli said.

Committee member Eric Hinds said, “With the Phillips Park proposal, we were trying to jam too much in there.”

He said the HYAA’s suggestions made sense. “It’s re-sodding some fields, fixing some holes, adding scoreboards and lights. These are easy wins that show collaboration between the town and user groups.”

It was “nice to see everybody in the room clapping together,” said township resident Barbara Singer.

“I was thinking there were ways to negotiate this issue and come up with compromises and finally I think some reasonable minds on both sides were able to work together and come up with a great plan,” Singer said.

Red Bank firm Maser Consulting’s concept plan at Phillips Park, located on Telegraph Hill Road at Mount Drive, called for a 360-by-210-foot multipurpose turf field as a centerpiece. The facility would have been used for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, and a section of it would have been lined for a 200-foot radius baseball and softball diamond.

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The design also included a separate 200-foot radius turf baseball and softball facility, two basketball courts and a walking track around the complex. All the new facilities were also due to be outfitted with state-of-the-art scoreboard, LED sports lighting and drainage systems.

Critelli said the Phillips Park plan provided “an opportunity to improve our fields, and give some artificial surface when the weather’s bad,” citing the inclement weather that so often disrupts play on the dirt and grass facilities currently existing at Phillips Park and other locations around town.

HYAA softball commissioner Gary Lewandowski said weather is sometimes tough to contend with but a major overhaul of facilities is not needed at this time.

“Baseball and softball are inordinately impacted by weather more than any other sports because of dirt infields. The drainage is bad up at Phillips Park. And maybe the addition of a turf infield is a possibility to alleviate that. But, while we appreciate the town looking out for HYAA, we also took to heart resident comments made about cost, environmental concerns and traffic, and wanted to come up with something that is common sense,” Lewandowski said.

He said HYAA’s recommendations are about efficiency and nonduplication, and include reutilizing and repurposing existing facilities.

HYAA Recommendations

  • Softball: Holmdel High School and W.R. Satz School are redoing their softball fields. Electrical conduits are being installed, but not lighting systems. HYAA would like the township to invest in LED lights. No softball fields in the township are currently lighted.
  • Baseball: There are two baseball fields at Phillips Park that do not drain well and caused approximately half the spring season to be washed out. HYAA requests the infields of these baseball diamonds be equipped with turf and new drainage systems.
  • Cross Farm Park: The park has two softball fields and two baseball fields with 90-foot base paths. HYAA recommends that only one large baseball field is needed and the other should be repurposed to house two tiny tee ball fields for 5 and 6 year olds, one for baseball and the other for softball. The remaining large field with 90-foot base paths should be outfitted with a turf infield. HYAA also requests the installment of an on-site batting cage and covered dugouts at all fields at the complex.
  • Basketball: HYAA requests that the Indian Hill School gymnasium be equipped with a new scoreboard system. Additionally, the outdoor courts at Holmdel High School need to be resurfaced.
  • Wrestling: HYAA said a location is needed where the full team can practice, rather than splitting the team into separate practice groups. This location would also need ample storage. If a recreation center was to be built, it’s recommended the team and equipment be housed there.
  • Lacrosse: Village Elementary school could become a center for lacrosse. The field needs sodding and grading, bleachers need repairs and equipment sheds need to be installed. In the future a turf field with lights and a connection to nearby Bob Roggy Field is recommended.
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When asked by resident Cathy Weber if the fields would only be able to be used by township residents, Critelli explained that the field priority would be given to the township youth groups and residents. When not in use, they would be rented to non-township group or travel organizations.

Critelli said he expects the committee to move forward with a bond ordinance for the upgrades at the Oct. 23 meeting.

This article was first published in the Oct. 11 – Oct. 17, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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