About 2,500 kids use Lieder Field in New Providence every year. Thanks to the New Providence Athletic Foundation and lights that were installed in 2011, community members are now utilizing the field during evening hours.
This project was made possible through the efforts of community volunteers, who managed to raise $125,000 of the $235,000 needed for the lights through the New Providence Partnership for Recreation and the Union County Kids Recreation Trust Fund Grant.
New Providence Council agreed to bond the remaining $110,000 needed for the project at a December 2010 meeting and the Athletic Foundation agreed to pay back that money over time. At a Dec. 17 council meeting, NPAF moved a whole lot closer to a zero balance when two of its members, Jim Madden and Bill Harvey, presented two checks to council, totaling $65,000.
“We’re here tonight to thank you for believing in us as a group of volunteers that have been shacking a can for longer than we want to admit, but for a town that we are grateful to live in and one that we believe in tremendously in terms of our volunteerism,” Madden said. “We were given a long time to pay this back and I know some people didn’t think we’d pull it off. But we’re here to give you our first installment, which is $24,200, but also $40,800 additional towards our principle. We hope to pay off the balance of this in 2013.”
Madden noted that this project was completed without any impact on New Providence taxpayers.
Harvey said the NPAF has seven active board members, including Councilman Alan Lesnewich, who continues to serve as the foundation’s president.
In 2007, NPAF raised and secured funding to install artificial turf at Lieder Field, Harvey said. The following year, the Snack Shack was completely renovated.
In 2009, Madden said the foundation was given the challenge of putting lights on the field at a time when funding for such projects was becoming more and more difficult.
“Through my work on the Community Activities Advisory Board, we were able to have a meeting with [Borough Administrator] Doug Marvin. We sat down and discussed what was possible. From that, Doug was a believer and I think a lot of what I’ll talk about right now is belief,” Madden explained. “So Doug was my first believer and Doug said, ‘Okay, I’m going to get you a meeting with [Council President] Mike Gennaro. Mike’s running finance. You’re going to have to meet with him and sell him on the merits of this project and this proposal.’ Mike… was also another believer.”
Madden said Carl Woodward also became a believer and contracted an agreement between council and NPAF.
Maureen Parker and Sue Lin Toner, who were always believers, were able to get the Union County Kids Recreation Trust Fund Grant applied to this project and from there, Union County became a believer, Madden said.
Foundation members presented the project to council in 2010 and there were some objections from residents about the organization’s ability to pay, Madden said. But the council, collectively, was a believer, along with Borough Engineer Andy Hipolit, Assistant Borough Engineer Mark Demareski, Mark Post and Maser Consulting.
“People on this council and within this town believe in what we are trying to accomplish as an organization,” Madden said.
Lesnewich said this projects shows the ability of a major and council to work collaboratively with a local volunteer organization, and see a positive outcome.
“I think things like this are great because it’s showing the volunteers and the politicians, so to speak, that we can work together to get things done and we don’t have to have, no pun intended, turf wars,” Lesnewich explained. “Putting on my hat as the Athletic Foundation president, I’m really grateful to the mayor and council for extending us the opportunity to borrow that money and the trust that we would have people who believe in the project. I don’t think there’s any question that this has been a success and it’s going to make a huge difference.”
Gennaro said this was welcome, but surprising news, and praised the foundation for a job well done.
“Let’s just say we need more groups in town like the New Providence Athletic Foundation,” Gennaro said. “This exceeded even our lofty expectations of what you guys could pull off. Great job.”