Several improvements and additions to sporting facilities in and around the Verona Community Center were announced by Township Manager Joseph Martin at Monday’s Town Council meeting. These include a new snack bar and bleachers for Veteran’s Field; a new road connecting the VCC parking lot to White Rock Road, and two brand-new fields on the Hilltop.
A contractor has been selected and will begin work immediately on Veteran’s Field, the original playing field at the VCC, said Mr. Martin. New maintenance-free bleachers similar to those presently at the complex’s Centennial Field will seat about 150 people. There will also be a screen installed to prevent foul balls from ending up in the woods. The project will cost $220,000, which, according to Mr. Martin, is funded “one-hundred percent” by a grant from the state’s and Essex County’s Open Space Trust Fund.
The town also plans to connect the VCC parking lot to White Rock Road, the new street leading from the Hilltop development to Bloomfield Avenue. This will open up a second point of egress and alleviate traffic backups during sporting events. People would then be able to enter and exit the VCC complex via the light at Linn Drive and Bloomfield Avenue or the light at White Rock Road and Bloomfield. Mr. Martin will recommend funding for the $250,000. project come from a combination of non-property-tax sources in the capital budget.
As part of the final phase of the Hilltop development, two more synthetic playing fields, for baseball and lacrosse, will also be built on the Hilltop, using tax revenue from the two rental buildings currently being built by Cenrose Properties. Mr. Martin says that the township will reap $1.5 million on these buildings, revenue that has been structured as a payment in lieu of taxes, guaranteeing that 90% of the tax revenue goes directly to the town. Mr. Martin assured members of the public that the playing fields will not be built on virgin land, but on land formerly occupied by the county jail. The fields will be located on the first and second plateaus of the Hilltop property behind the Community Center.
A ropes course currently on the Hilltop will be expanded and is expected to be a source of revenue for the town, as well as a recreational spot for various town organizations, Mr. Martin added.