HILLSBOROUGH: Committee approves sports facility plan

Artist rendering
The Hillsborough Township Committee approved plans to construct the Apex Sports and Events Facility on Tuesday. (Artist rendering)

The potential construction of a 210,000 square-foot sports complex adjacent to Mountain View Park will go before the Hillsborough Township Planning Board next month, after the township committee unanimously approved the plan Tuesday.

Described as a “multi-sport athletic facility designed to serve participants in sports leagues, skill-building clinics/camps, and competition as well as sports performance training, pay-to-play recreation experiences, and youth development activities,” officials said the facility will complement existing features in the area by offering outdoor artificial turf fields, as well as an indoor sports complex.

“Hillsborough Township and Somerset County are excited to announce the anticipated expansion of facilities adjacent to Mountain View Park with the inclusion of Apex Sports & Events, expected to open in 2019,” Mayor Gloria McCauley said.

In recent years, the county and the township worked together to preserve the 369 acres of land that makes up Mountain View Park, located at 141 Mountain View Road. The park is contiguous to the county’s 5,500-acre Sourland Mountain Preserve and is in close proximity to Hillsborough Township’s Ann Van Middlesworth Park.

“Somerset County was thrilled to bring the Mountain View Park facility to fruition, we hope Hillsborough and other area residents take advantage of the sports and recreational opportunities,” Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caliguire, who serves as the freeholder liaison to the Parks Commission, said. “We know that having Apex right next door will provide a combined second to none sports environment.”

The park sits on a 369-acre piece of property that was once part of the former GSA Belle Mead Depot. The property was jointly purchased by the township and Somerset County.

Local resident and Apex owner Gregg Wilke said the idea to construct the proposed sports facility in Hillsborough started five years ago when he and his wife grew tired of carting their children throughout the state and Pennsylvania to participate in sports.

“Our mission is to create a state-of-the-art unique competition and training facility for Hillsborough that serves the year-round sports and recreation needs of local families while promoting a healthy lifestyle for the community and assisting in the development of our young athletes,” he said. “We intend to open the outdoor turf fields in the spring of 2019 and the indoor complex later that year.”

According to the approved plans, the facility will feature three outdoor synthetic turf fields. The indoor facility will feature a pair of domes “to be used for youth sports, training programs, clinics, camps, sports performance, fitness training, youth and adult leagues, tournaments and events.”

The outdoor synthetic fields will be used primarily for sports like soccer, lacrosse, and football, while the indoor complex will include a hardwood court area for sports such as basketball, volleyball and futsal. There will also be a team-training area, including batting cages and pitching tunnels; a rock climbing area and a play climb area; mezzanine viewing area; a cafe and concessions area; multi-purpose rooms; team rooms; and other supporting spaces.

In order to facilitate the project, the governing body is looking to enter into a lease agreement with Apex Land Associates, LLC. The township is also looking to give a five-year tax exemption to Apex as an incentive to construct the facility.

Officials said the township worked with Apex to ensure the facility would be available to the community and the township’s youth first. One of the contemporary outdoor turf fields will provide 400 hours of reserved prime time for the Hillsborough Township Parks and Recreation Department.

Additionally, Hillsborough-based 501(c)3 organizations will be able to rent playing time at 50 percent of typical rental rates on this field.

“Our local sports families are currently traveling to other towns including Flemington, Branchburg and Bridgewater to name a few in order to find field and court space to support their teams’ practices and games,” Jamie Moore, director of Jr. Raiders Youth Sports Inc., said. “A sports and recreation facility such as Apex has long been the talk of the sports clubs in town, and we are very excited to keep our families local and playing in a premiere facility located in Hillsborough.”

The next step in the process is for Apex to go before the planning board on April 5 for site plan approval.