KINNELON – Something looked unusual as cars drove past the Kinnelon High School soccer field on Friday night. It wasn’t just that the Colts were back in action, entertaining Shabazz.
The field was a little bouncy, the lights a little brighter. Almost everything was new.
Thanks to an anonymous alumni donor, Kinnelon finally debuted his eagerly awaited “Field of Dreams” on Friday evening with a 20-0 loss to Shabazz.
It was the culmination of decades of effort and so many false starts.
“It changed everything,” said longtime Kinnelon coach Kevin White. “The kids had to use their imaginations on the yard markers. … Now you have numbers on the field. You have lines. You have dashes. You have goal posts to work off. It really is a huge, huge, huge difference.”
The project cost “just over $ 2 million,” according to outgoing Kinnelon sporting director Scott Rosenberg. Construction began in the spring, the foundations and drainage created before the artificial surface was created. Rosenberg said Kinnelon got “the platinum-level product,” with a brown organic filling made from olive pits instead of black recycled rubber.
On Friday night, the poles glowed green – Kinnelon’s school color – as the lights blinked rhythmically during halftime. The Colts now have the option to use multiple colors and patterns, with a touchdown celebration pre-programmed.
Kinnelon has also added a new entrance and ticket booth.
“We’re going from what is almost the worst field in the county to what I would call the best,” said Rosenberg, who played football at Morris Hills.
Butler is the only high school in Morris County that does not have an artificial turf pitch. Football, soccer and field hockey are played at Memorial Field in the fall.
Kinnelon’s football teams train and play on grass at Pearl Miller Middle School. But there are plans to share the new interface, including with rec teams. The high school track will be open to the community until 9:30 p.m. each night.
“If it was grass, the grass was a lot longer,” said 10-year-old Ethan Hertzberg, whose Kinnelon Junior Colts team played a preseason game on the lawn on Thursday. “It makes running better when it’s shorter. It feels like you’re floating on air because it’s new.”
Check out photos of the new facility, then scroll down to learn the rest of the story.
Kinnelon Superintendent Diane DiGiuseppe believed the field would save the school district money in the long run. Even after bad weather, like Tropical Storm Ida earlier this week, the Colts no longer have to rent lawns from other facilities and drive to training. Maintenance will also be less costly than re-sowing the natural grass surface every two years.
The project is still ongoing. Kinnelon plans to replace its grandstands and press room and set up a golf training area after the end of the fall season.
“You always keep in the back of your mind, ‘Oh, the weed was good for us,’ but you adapt and change quickly,” said Rob Gogerty, a Cedar Grove alumnus who is now training and learning from his alma mater remembered playing at Kinnelon in the late 1990s.
“It’s really good for the school and the city. It helps your exercise program deal with the weather.
Progress pays off
Kinnelon was one of the first Morris County’s high schools to play under the famous Friday Night Lights. In 1974 the school got wooden telephone poles adorned with lights that were pulled down during the renovation of Yankee Stadium.
But an artificial field remained elusive.
In the mid-1990s, sporting director John ByDook raised more than $ 100,000 in donations as a sporting director, but the project stalled. Several referendums by both the district and the education committee failed in the ballot box. An appeal to the New York Giants, who had funded similar facilities at other schools, was not a cause, as Kinnelon did not have a 501c3 foundation.
“I didn’t believe in my life here in Kinnelon, I wanted to see a grass field,” said DiGiuseppe, who has been working in the district since November 2008.
“It was a really long time ago and a lot of roadblocks … Driving past high school has had a nice stretch for years and this field was in poor shape. Kinnelon has no city center so the school and library are the focus , and it looks really good. “
Jane Havsy is a sports reporter for DailyRecord.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis, subscribe today.
Email: JHavsy@gannettnj.com Twitter: @dailyrecordspts