Westwood Regional Schools have offered their sports facilities to local teams, for a price, meaning young athletes will still have a place to play this year even if Memorial Field is temporarily closed for maintenance.
Increasing participation in a growing number of youth sports in Washington Township has repeatedly caused problems at Memorial Field, Council President Richard Hrbek said, describing the field as being "pretty tattered" by the end of football season. For the repairs to hold, there can be no sports played on the field while the maintenance is done. Hrbek said he hopes to institute a rotation system so Memorial Field can recover on alternating years.
NorthJersey.com reported Wednesday that township officials voted to budget $40,000 for sodding the field. Hrbek said Monday that sodding cost about $43,000 the last time it was done.
In the future, some Westwood and shared sports programs like lacrosse will be able to play at the borough's Westvale Park, where fields are expected to open in August. For now, several programs have signed up to use fields at the high school, which were just improved last year with a $3 million contract.
Some parents are upset that the district is charging money for use of the facilities. Westwood resident Chris Codner said increasing fees will drive down volunteer participation during a Board of Education meeting last week.
"It was sold as 'our field,' and now it's not our field," Codner said. "We're going to have to pay to use that field."
Westwood Superintendent Geoffrey Zoeller said the fees would be collected to pay for eventual maintenance of the facilities.
The use of school facilities is only a temporary solution. Township officials are exploring more options for Memorial Field, including a possible expansion. The Council decided Monday to get an extension for a county grant which will pay for 47 percent, up to $735,000, for land acquisition. Possible plans include an additional field, more parking and making the switch to artificial turf, though officials said they could not commit to any specific plans yet. Hrbek said there were estimates an expansion could cost as much as $3 million, though Councilman Steve Cascio disputed that figure.
"The public should trust that the council will thoroughly look at this and not go ahead and spend taxpayers' money unnecessarily," Hrbek said.