Polo Grounds turf work starting soon in Bernardsville

13 April 2017

The long-anticipated installation of artificial turf at a portion of the Polo Grounds off Seney Drive is expected to get started this summer with completion eyed for later this year.

The Somerset County Engineering Department planned to put the project out to bid this week, according to John Macdowall, the borough’s public works manager. At the Borough Council’s meeting on Monday night, officials said the anticipated start of construction is July.

Youth sports program leaders are being advised that the Polo Grounds may not be useable at all this fall, due to the turf installation, the presence of construction equipment and the possible need to reseed the grass portions of the complex.

Officials said that if the weather cooperates, the Polo Grounds – including the new artificial turf portion – might actually be ready to reopen at some point this fall. But that’s not a guarantee that borough officials are willing or able to make at this time.

The county freeholders and council struck a cost-sharing agreement for the artificial turf field project last year. The turf installation is expected to cost up to $1 million with the county agreeing to fund 70 percent and the borough the remaining 30 percent.

Monday night, the council approved an addendum to that agreement stating that the county will continue to pick up 70 percent of any project costs that exceed $1 million. Officials still expect the contract cost to fall within the $1 million figure unless there are change orders once the work begins.

Change orders sometimes occur on construction projects from work unforeseen when the contract is awarded, such as the need for more excavation than anticipated.

The field design that will go out to bid calls for the installation of more than 9,900 square yards of artificial turf. Most of it will entail the construction of a new turf gridiron where the existing Pop Warner field is located.

A turfed softball infield with home plate facing east, would be constructed adjacent to the new football field. When not in use as a gridiron, the turfed football field would serve as the softball field’s outfield. Turfing of that section of the Polo Grounds will cover the existing dirt and grass softball field nearby.Officials envision the turf gridiron will also be useable for soccer and lacrosse.

While county dollars are helping fund the project, the borough will control who uses the field. The demand from local groups figures to be strong, making it unlikely any outside groups who request use of the facility could be accommodated, said Councilman Jeff DeLeo.

“Based on our scheduling for that field, I don’t know who else is going to get on there,” DeLeo said. “The (borough’s) need is so great.”

‘First Step’

While the turf field is moving closer to reality, the council still faced questions about the project Monday.Anderson Hill Road resident Christine Zamarra asked whether a walking trail would be constructed around the perimeter of the Polo Grounds as part of the project.

The presence of wetlands on a portion of the Polo Grounds means a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be needed to create such a trail, officials said.

Council members said the goal currently is to have the county firstr complete the turf field. Other enhancements to the Polo Grounds could be carried out by the borough alone in the future.“Right now, this is a first step,” Councilman Michael dePoortere said of the turf field construction.

Crest Drive resident and former Councilman Joseph Rossi applauded the pending start of the turf field installation. “It’s great to have,” he said. “We’ve been fighting for it for a long time.”

But Rossi also told the council it should be looking to add a much-needed baseball field to the borough’s athletic facilities and should also construct a new field house at the Polo Grounds.

Rossi called for a field house with a glassed in area from which parents could watch athletic events while shielded from the cold. The field house would also have restroom facilities.

“It’s something that we deserve,” Rossi said of the field house.Council members did not comment on the suggestion.