The borough of Metuchen celebrated the returfing of Myrtle Field with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the athletics facility on Saturday night.
Funding secured as part of the state legislature’s annual budget process contributed to the renovation, which included the installation of new multi-purpose synthetic turf, an LED lighting system that will reduce energy costs and light pollution, and other improvements including the addition of safety netting.
Mayor Jonathan Busch praised the borough council, borough recreation commission, former recreation director Nancy Goldberg, her successor Rick Perrine, borough administrator Melissa Perilstein, borough volunteer Ken Kacani, and others with helping to make the renovation project come to fruition.
He also credited Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and Assemblymen Rob Karabinchak and Sterley Stanley with helping to secure $350,000 in state funding for the field renovation.
“(They) helped us get this incredibly important project that impacts the quality of life for so many in the borough off of the ground,” Busch said.
“Projects like these highlight the importance of Metuchen’s close partnership with our elected officials at the federal, state and county levels. These renovations are an example of how government is supposed to work on behalf of its residents.”
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Speaking on behalf of Karabinchak and Stanley as a representative of New Jersey’s 18th Legislative District, which includes the Brainy Borough, Diegnan said, “Rob, Sterley and I are proud to support Metuchen.”
“When we all came here today, we looked around and said, ‘Isn’t this beautiful?’” Diegnan said. “This is doing a great job for all the kids here in Metuchen. But this is a result of all the planning and all the input you had from everybody.
“This is a celebration of all that is good. The mayor mentioned two words that stood out in my mind – community and family – and that’s what Metuchen is all about.”
The facility, among the borough’s most used, regularly serves approximately 1,300 children, families and adults who utilize the field for soccer, baseball, field hockey, flag football and other activities.
“Myrtle Field has become a two or even three day a week stop for so many of our families,” Busch said, “including my own.”
The borough’s signature “M” has been emblazoned across the middle of the field in Metuchen’s trademark color of blue.
Renovation to the facility, which was first turfed in 2006, includes moving the full-sided soccer field to the center of the park to enhance the viewing experience for spectators, who will now be closer to the action.
In coming days, netting will be added behind the soccer goals to help keep balls on the playing field.
Mark-outs on the field will enable it to be reconfigured on demand for field hockey and smaller side-by-side soccer fields.
As a result, the Metuchen Soccer Club will now be able to host soccer tournaments at Myrtle Field and adjacent Charles Field.
The baseball diamond on the renovated field has been pushed back to reduce overlap with the soccer field, making the field lines parallel to help avoid confusion for players using the complex for both sports.
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Newly constructed baseball dugouts, with a concrete surface and 12-foot-high chain-link fencing, are among the other improvement to the field, whose first-base and third-base lines will also feature netting to protect spectators and prevent balls from leaving the playing area.
Metuchen council members Linda Koskoski and Dan Hirsch, along with borough recreation commission members Matt Masturzo, Liza Bruns, Don Wallace and Alicia Killean joined Busch and others for the ceremony.
Youth athletes from the borough joined the dignitaries for the formal ribbon cutting.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony preceded the Metuchen High School varsity baseball team’s Senior Night game against East Brunswick Tech, during which Myrtle Field’s new LED lighting system was scheduled to make its debut.
Busch said the LED system has reduced the number of bulbs from 78 to 38 and features 10 ball-tracking lights that shed light on a ball while it is airborne.
“If you see Ken (Kacani) walking around tonight or staring into the lights a little too long wondering if the direction on one of them might need to be shifted a little, please make sure to thank him,” Busch said.
“This project would not have gotten done if it weren’t for the tireless dedication of one of the borough’s all-time great volunteers, Ken Kacani. All of the incredible improvements you see here today were borne out of Ken’s vision for youth recreation in the borough.
“He has been on this field nearly every single day for the last few months, following up on our plan, making sure that things were being done right, and encouraging our contractors to do whatever it took to ensure that we would be ready for this moment. And we are.”
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Shortly after Busch spoke those words, Metuchen baseball players carried onto the field a portable mound, from which a first pitch was thrown, introducing a new era of athletics in the borough.
“Myrtle Field is the hub of youth and recreational sports within the borough and it is so important for us to invest in this upgraded facility, for not only the youth of our town but also for the adult leagues and others in town who come to use this field,” Metuchen Borough Council President Jason Delia said.
“These upgrades give our community the type of field we deserve.”