By BRETT CARROLL
Hazlet children now have a “safe place to play.”
That statement is the result of the efforts of several environmental and green terrain groups that led to the renovation of Steven B. Patterson Field.
On May 18, Hazlet officials were on hand to announce the opening of newly renovated field that is located on Hazlet Avenue.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were representatives of the multiple project groups, members of the Hazlet Hawks youth football and cheerleading teams, residents and a former star athlete from Hazlet.
Officials from Project Ever Green, Performance Nutrition and Natural Green Lawn Care explained how the project came together and why they believed that the effort will be a boost to the community.
“We just wanted to create a safe place for the kids to play,” said Don Pucillo, who is the CEO of Performance Nutrition, which is based in Hazlet and specializes in healthy growth of natural grass.aid. “Every kid should have a safe place to play, and I’m proud to say that now Hazlet kids have one.”
Bennett Jackson, who played for the Hazlet Hawks before he starred at Raritan High School and then in college at Notre Dame, spoke about his memories of playing at the field.
Jackson, a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, pointed to the old field while he spoke.
“I remember playing on that half-dirt, half-grass field over there,” said Bennett, who is presently a free agent in search of an NFL team. “This is a huge thing for the community, having a nice grass field like this will be great for the kids and for the town.”
Once the speeches were completed and the cheerleaders finished their routines, residents toured the new grass fields.
The field had been closed for 10 years due to unsafe playing conditions, according to the Project Ever Green press release. Project Ever Green is a national parks and fields renovation company based in Cleveland, Ohio.
According to Cindy Code, the Executive Director of Project Ever Green, the firm received a call from Pucillo in October of 2016 He reached out for help, hoping that Project Ever Green could join his group in renovating the field.
“I grew up Brooklyn, New York,” Pucillo said. “The baseball fields we had growing up were nothing but rocks and dirt. You had have nerves of steel to be an infielder when we played. When I heard what was going on here in Hazlet, I wanted to help.”
Together, the two companies, along with Bridgewater-based, Natural Green Lawn Care, were able to reshape, fertilize, and reseed to field to create a safer surface to be played on.
“The entire process took about nine months,” Code said. “We really wanted to engage the community first and see what the community was like first. It’s all about creating something that the community can enjoy together.”
The field isn’t 100 percent done yet, according to officials, but the facilities should be ready when the Hawks begin youth football play in a few months.