11th Street Fields receiving facelift
HAMMONTON—After spending years in disrepair, the 11th Street Recreation Fields are starting to get a facelift.
According to Public Works Department Head Scott Rivera, the rehabilitation of the complex includes the reconstruction of the hockey rink.
Recreation Leader Denise Mazzeo said that the project is particular timely because street hockey, which had waned in popularity in recent years, is making a comeback.
“The kids are back to playing it. It’s coming back. The last couple of years, nothing was done, and you see the condition that the rink is in: it’s terrible ... They want to take it all out. It looks terrible. The wood is disintegrating; it’s just awful,” Mazzeo said.
Councilman Sam Rodio, who serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission, concurred.
“The hockey rink is deplorable. What needs to be done is for it to be completely torn apart, all that old wood. Just leave the concrete part of the dugout. The steel posts that go all the way around it, leave them. That project, Scott’s going to be doing over the summer. It’s not going to happen tomorrow. It might be August or September by the time it gets taken completely apart. He’s using the last two weeks of each month,” Rodio said.
Ideally, Rivera said, he would like to begin the renovation of the hockey rink “sometime in July.”
“If I can squeeze it into June, we’ll see, if I can start doing some of the demo. I’ve taken all of the measurements; I’ve been in contact with Peter Lumber and Universal Supply for different prices for material. The cost of material has gone up so much, but we’re going at it,” Rivera said.
Rivera explained the plan for the rink’s renovation.
“When we redo the hockey rink, it won’t really need a demo; it’s going to be kind of a tear-off-and-replace. The original thought was to rip everything down and start from scratch, but that’s a larger thing, so I said we’ll do it in sections, because we only have allotted timelines between bulky and brush and everything else. I don’t want to look bad halfway through, so we’ll rip off a section and replace it,” Rivera said.
Rivera said that he would prefer to replace the existing plywood with either pressure-treated plywood or with oriented strand board (OSB), which Rivera said is “the outside density board.”
“It’s weather-resistant, and it’ll hold up for a good number of years. Everything else will be pressure-treated to try to make it as durable and as lasting as possible,” Rivera said.
Rivera said that he plans to begin working on the rink’s dugouts first.
“That’s elevated work. I’ll get the lift and the ladders ... I’d like to go with a different structure than they have there. Replacing the wood and everything, but I want to do away with the shingles and put metal on the roof, a thicker pole barn metal. It’ll hold up long-term, and it’ll have the weight capacity for snow. It’ll hold up better than some of the rotten stuff that we had in the past,” Rivera said.
Rivera said that work can then commence on rehabilitating the hockey rink.
“Everything there is at chest-level, the wood all the way around. Plus, that’ll take the longest, because I have to unbolt a lot of the stuff. I can’t torch it, so I have to unbolt a lot of the old bolts that were there ... I want to put all either zinc-plated or galvanized, so it won’t rust, then we have to re-bolt everything back on, all the top plates and everything. I’d prefer to go with some type of OSB board or pressure-treated sheets. I also want to do some painting, too,” Rivera said.
The rink, Rodio said, was originally built with money from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program. According to that program’s website, Green Acres was created in 1961 to meet the state’s growing recreation and conservation needs. Since its founding, the Green Acres program has “directly protected 650,000 acres of open space and provided hundreds of outdoor recreational facilities in communities around the state.”
“Over the years, voters have authorized $3.3 billion in Green Acres funding, approving every bond referendum put before them. Green Acres is committed to preserving New Jersey’s rich natural, historic and cultural heritage. Hundreds of thousands of acres of conservation and recreation lands have been preserved, and hundreds of public parks have been developed with Green Acres funds,” the website states.
Because such funds were used, Mazzeo said, that area must remain recreation—and preferably the existing hockey rink in particular—indefinitely.
“Green Acres wants to see you keep up with what you have and keep improving on it, and maintain what recreation space you have,” Mazzeo said.
Rodio elaborated on the topic.
“If you didn’t want to replace it, you’d have to replace it somewhere else, and the town would have to spend that money. It can be replaced in another area, but the town would have to spend that money. If you wanted to completely strip it out and make a parking lot out of it, we couldn’t. It can’t be done. Once you commit to Green Acres, that’s the way it has to stay,” Rodio said.
Mazzeo said that such structures are perfectly in keeping with the town’s plans for the area.
“They want to keep it a rink, and we do hope to see some life pumped back into that area. It’s been far too long, and everyone wants to see it—and all of our parks—look its best. That’s what we’re trying to get moving on,” Mazzeo said.
Above is a slideshow of photos from the 11th Street Hockey Rink from June 25, 2021.
One Hammonton family in particular that is pleased to hear of the rehabilitation work is the Adirzone family. Speaking with The Gazette, Stephen Adirzone—whose brother, Chris, died in a car accident of November of 1991 and in whose honor a portion of the hockey facility was once named—said that talk of the renovation was “nice to hear.”
“I think the town could really use some youth hockey, as well as some men’s league hockey—because we have nothing at this point for our kids to play hockey, other than in the street—so it’s great to hear that there’s an interest in trying to bring back hockey in town,” Adirzone said.
Adirzone said that a banner above the facility’s scoreboard once bore his brother’s name, and was installed early in the winter of 1992.
The sign is no longer there.
“We stopped playing there. I don’t know if it disintegrated or if somebody took it down. It started to get really dilapidated, and we might have even asked somebody to take it down at that point, just because it didn’t look very nice up there because the rink was falling apart, but I honestly don’t remember if that happened or it came down on its own, or if somebody took it down,” Adirzone said.
As to whether such a sign should be restored, Adirzone said that he would like to confer with his family on the topic.
“I would like to see what my father’s opinion on it is. I know, when it first went up, he was very honored by the gesture by the town,” Adirzone said.
Adirzone said that street hockey has been an important sport for his family.
“We spent a lot of time not only at the rink that’s down at 11th but the one that used to be at St. Joe Academy. Our family spent hours down at the rink—playing, coaching, officiating—so it really is nice to hear that there’s some interest in bringing back hockey in town,” Adirzone said.
The hockey rink isn’t the only part of the 11th Street Recreation Fields that is undergoing renovation.
Councilman Steven Furgione, who also serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission, said that the basketball courts are getting an upgrade as well.
“I do know that they were ordering new backboards and rims to go out there. Denise [Mazzeo] was working on that. I think they’re trying to get fiberglass backboards instead of the metal, so they don’t rust. I know Scott was out there working on the poles, and things of that nature,” Furgione said.
Rodio said that the initial plan called for refurbishing the four existing basketball rims at the facility until Rivera inspected the area.
“Scott went and took some pictures, and, looking at it, we’re getting prices to put new courts up—pole, backboard, breakaway rims so when they hang on the rims, the whole basketball court is starting to bend forward and nobody wants to play on something like that, and they’ve been down there since the place was built. We’re going to do crack fill on the asphalt and completely go over top with a new seal so you can bounce a ball and not have to worry about it going five feet the other way ... Denise is getting prices from a couple of vendors, because we have to go through state vendors,” Rodio said.
At the June 15 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission, the purchase of four five-foot gooseneck-style extended outdoor backstops for fan backboards was approved at a total cost of $5,091.16, as was a bid for resurfacing the courts at a cost of $5,415.
There has been other work at the facility, including the rebuilding of a shed.
“At first, that old, beat-up shed that was there? We had said, let’s just tear it down, not realizing—and Scott [Rivera] informed us—that that’s where the pump is for that entire area for water, so we couldn’t tear it down. We told Scott, OK, whatever you need,” Rodio said.
Rivera explained further.
“When we demoed it, we did it in pieces because we couldn’t take the whole... in retrospect, it would have been cheaper to just drop a new shed onsite, but, because of the elements inside the shed—there’s an old pump in there that they used to use for the fields. It’s winterized; it’s still operable if they ever decide to use it, so I didn’t want to destroy it, and I didn’t want to get a shed in with a crane—we rebuilt the shed and made it better. It’ll be around long after I’m gone,” Rivera said.
Several unsightly trees were also removed from the property.
“Right behind the rink and the softball field, there was all kinds of trees behind it. Scott went in there and cut them down. They weren’t big trees, but they were growing into the backstop, and they were growing into the hockey rink. We did the same thing on the other field on the far end, and we cleaned it all up to make it look a lot better than it was,” Rodio said.
Rodio credited Mayor Stephen DiDonato as being a major impetus behind the work at the 11th Street Recreation Fields.
“He is behind it. All I do is check with him. I give him a quote—like Scott got the quote to do the asphalt—and he was fine with it. I’m waiting for Denise to get the backboard quote, and I already asked him and he said, ‘I’ll be OK with it. Move forward.’ The mayor is 100 percent behind this whole project,” Rodio said.
Rivera also discussed how these projects are being funded.
“Some of it is coming out of my operating expenses for highway, and some of it is coming out of recreation funds. The recreation funds, on the administrative side, can come from Green Acres and all different places; it’s not like it’s full-blown taxpayer dollars. It’s a lot of grants; we try to take advantage of all of that. There are a lot of different programs where we get things through the state, so we try to apply for everything. We don’t always get it, but we make an attempt to at least try to get our hands on it,” Rivera said.
Rodio said that there is currently no cost estimate for the entirety of the project.
“It’s not going to happen in the next month or two. It’s going to take some time, because we want to try to do it as inexpensively as we can. We don’t want to start borrowing money and putting burdens on the taxpayer; we want to try to do this efficiently, and the best we can, and use the money that we have. All the work that has been done so far is town employees. On the weeks where there isn’t as much to do, they’re putting some time in ... We’re trying to do it with as much town help as we can to save as much money as we can. With his extra guys the last two weeks of each month, he can do these things,” Rodio said.
Rodio said that the renovations represent a multiple-year project.
“This isn’t just happening this year. This is a two or three year project, like in ‘22 or ‘23; I’m hoping that it doesn’t have to reach into ‘24. A little at a time, we want to try to do as much as we can ourselves, and hire contractors—like a fence guy or something—to fix up these parks and really make it look nice,” Rodio said.