City Council on Thursday evening unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that authorizes spending $1.25 million to install an artificial turf field and to resurface the track at Carey Stadium, the home field for Ocean City High School teams and location for a mix of non-school events.
The property, located between Ocean City High School and the Ocean City Boardwalk between Fifth and Sixth streets, is owned and maintained by the City of Ocean City.
A public hearing and second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Sept. 25. If the ordinance passes, work on the track and field could begin later this fall and be ready for the spring sports seasons, according to Jim Mallon, assistant to Mayor Jay Gillian.
In a separate vote Thursday, City Council approved advertising for bids from contractors to complete the job.
Finance Director Frank Donato said the project is consistent with an approved plan for capital improvements in the city, and with $500,000 in supplementary funds available, the city would have $1.75 million “on hand” for the project as a whole.
Mallon said the city spends $90,000 every other year to resod the existing grass field unless weather or floods force them to do it every year. He said the city spends $10,000 annually for water, $7,500 for fertilizer and seed, and $6,500 to paint lines. He said those costs would go away if an artificial turf field were installed.
He also said maintenance of the field requires the equivalent of one or two seasonal employees per year at a savings of $10,000 to $20,000.
But Councilman Pete Guinosso and Councilman Antwan McClellan pressed Mallon on the potential costs of maintaining a turf field.
Mallon said the city is estimating a life of 10 to 12 years and a replacement cost of $400,000 to $430,000. Much of the cost of the initial project is based on preparation of drainage and the substructure for the field.
The facility is used for many non-school events that range in scope from Ocean City Nor’easter amateur soccer games, to the annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life, to preseason exhibition games for Rowan University football.
The turf field is seen by council as an opportunity to attract new events and new Ocean City visitors.
Guinosso asked if the city had estimates of what revenue the city anticipates from new events. Mallon said the city does not have specific projections.
“We have not been out soliciting business for a turf field that does not exist,” he said.
In public comment, Ocean City resident, business owner and parent Dave Allegretto cited studies that indicate the new turf fields cause fewer injuries than traditional grass fields. He touted the merits of the project for businesses, visitors and year-round residents.
Ocean City High School boys’ track coach Matt Purdue spoke in favor of the project, and Ocean City resident Drew Fasy asked council to “go big or go home.” He encouraged council to consider making the stadium a true destination with better refreshment stands, smart boards, changing rooms for teams and other amenities.
A drawing of the proposed facility indicates the field could be striped and used for football, soccer, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, and field hockey. See the council agenda packet for details.
The potential spending on the field is part of a larger bond ordinance that calls for $1.44 million in appropriations and $1.36 million in borrowing. The proposed ordinance would include a $150,000 appropriation for purchase of a new Ocean City Fire Department truck and a $35,000 appropriation for installation of a generator at the fire department’s 46th Street station.
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