Work will soon begin on a $2.2 million project to install artificial turf on several fields. The hope is that the project will be completed by late fall with the hope of making the fields available for play as soon as next spring.
Red Bank Engineer Christine Ballard said the borough is replacing the natural grass of a baseball, softball and multipurpose field with artificial turf, which will match the park’s centerpiece, a football field that was converted to artificial turf a couple of years ago.
The change is needed, Ballard said, because poor drainage and heavy use have left the fields in a constant state of disrepair making them often unplayable during the season. The plan was 2011.
Red Bank has bonded the money needed for the project but is hoping to offset costs with grant funding from multiple sources, including the state’s Green Acres program, which would pay the borough back 25 percent of the total project costs, or roughly $550,000, borough Administrator Stanley Sickles said.
There’s a bit of a hitch in the plan, however. Despite applying for the grant funding months ago, the borough hasn’t heard if it’s received approval from the Department of Environmental Protection. Red Bank can’t delay the start of work on replacing the fields or else the grant expires.
“We’re proceeding,” Sickles said. “But at a risk.”
Green Acres isn’t Red Bank’s only funding hope, however. Red Bank Catholic High School, which pays the borough a leasing fee each year to play sports at Count Basie Park, has written a letter noting their intention to contribute an additional $50,000 each year for the next 10 years. Sickles indicated that other funding opportunities are currently being pursued.
Other improvements, including some expected down the line, include a walking path, new restrooms and a concession stand.
The popular park – the borough’s largest by a considerable margin – is located in south Red Bank and is home to many youth sports programs. Mayor Pat Menna estimated that the park is used by about 30,000 people a year.