Jackson board approves General Development Plan for Trophy Park

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JACKSON – The Planning Board has approved a General Development Plan (GDP) for Trophy Park, an athletic complex proposed for development on 194 acres at Route 537 and Hawkin Road, Jackson. The approval of the GDP came at the board’s Feb. 4 meeting.

The applicant’s representatives will have to return in the future so the board may conduct public hearings on individual site plan aspects of the Trophy Park application.

Trophy Park, an indoor and outdoor complex, would feature 16 baseball and softball fields, batting cages, 10 lacrosse, soccer, field hockey and practice fields, a 400,000-square-foot, two-story, 18-court indoor facility for basketball, volleyball, cheerleading and wrestling, and an outdoor stadium with 6,000 seats. The fields will be synthetic turf.

Trophy Park would also include three restaurants, a building with retail space and hotels.

Representatives of Trophy Park said the complex would be able to host 2,000 athletes per week who would attend youth athletic tournaments and sports camps. They said the athletes would stay in a team hotel that would not have a kitchen. The athletes’ parents would stay in two hotels on the property.

The property where Trophy Park is proposed is in Jackson’s Commercial Recreation District (CR-1) and not in the Pinelands region, according to the applicant.

The applicant has proposed a tiered green infrastructure approach in regard to storm water management. The first tier would include a rain garden, porous pavement, grass pavers, vegetative filter strips, artificial turf and other methods to control storm water, according to testimony presented to the board.

“Artificial turf is extremely permeable. Part of why it is being proposed is if it rains and you play minutes later when the rain stops, the water (has gone) right through it,” said professional planner Jeromie Lange, who testified on behalf of the applicant.

Lange said no fertilizers or pesticides would be used at the site and he said infrastructure under the artificial turf would prevent runoff.

Maurice Rached testified about the movement of vehicles in and around Trophy Park. He said the applicant is proposing one signalized primary driveway and one right-in/right-out secondary driveway.

Rached said all turning movements would be permitted at the Route 537 main entrance.

Anticipated operations at Trophy Park include summer camps for baseball and soccer. The maximum occupancy for participants is 1,800, based on beds in the team suites. Rached said about 40 percent of the participants would arrive by bus or van, while others would be dropped off in individual vehicles.

Testimony indicated the multi-sport building will host events that include cheerleading, wrestling and basketball. There would be Amateur Athletic Union tournaments (youth basketball) throughout the year, and two-day tournaments for baseball and soccer from March through June and September through November.

“We looked at the worst case scenario, which means what is the highest demand this facility can experience. That would be everybody coming in between 8 a.m. and noon,” Rached said.

The busiest times during the summer camps would occur on Saturday and Sunday during the pick-up and drop-off of participants, he said, adding there would be an estimated 270 trips per hour.

In regard to the multi-sport building, there would be a maximum of 600 players using the facility on weekends. Players would arrive and depart over a four-hour period, equating to about 150 entering and exiting trips per hour, according to Rached.

There would be a maximum of 500 employees working during the “max shift,” but 25 percent (125) would arrive on Sunday during the peak hour and depart the following Saturday.

“Because this is a unique site, we went around the nation and collected information on sites that are somewhat similar,” Rached said.

The applicant is required to provide 692 parking spaces for the hotels, restaurants and retail space. Trophy Park has proposed 850 parking spaces.

The proposed athletic complex requires 2,034 parking spaces. Trophy Park has proposed 2,350 parking spaces.

Township Councilman Ken Bressi, who sits on the board, suggested that a study be conducted to gauge the impact of the traffic that would be generated on Route 537 by the development and operation of Trophy Park.

“Another thing I have not seen, and would like to see for a site this size, are emergency entrances for emergency vehicles,” Bressi said.

Attorney John J. Jackson III, representing the applicant, said that as Trophy Park goes through the site plan approval process, more detailed information in regard to Route 537 would be presented to the board.

Jackson said Route 537 is zoned for the application.

“I think (the application) is a good sign. It shows this area is booming, it is a success story. Your master plan is working, businesses are being attracted, people want to make big investments here. The roads in most of those circumstances will catch up,” Jackson said.

The applicant, Alan Nau, thanked the board members for the public hearing and explained his position.

“One of the things I do besides trying to build a sports park, I do a lot of concerts and I do a lot of different venues where I represent a lot of people,” Nau said.

He said in regard to entertainment, people consider the time they leave home until the time they return home as being “their event.”

“If you cannot get them in easy, if you cannot get them out easy, when you go to a stadium and you are there for hours, or you go to a major race and you are there for hours, that is part of your event.

“In order to make everybody happy (at Trophy Park), we are going to make sure the egress, people coming in, everything is going to be timed so we do not have that problem,” Nau said.

“Safety is of the utmost importance. We are going to have people coming from all around the world to this park and if it is not safe, we invested a lot of money for nothing. I do not think you are going to have any concerns by the time we are done with our planning,” Nau said.

“The facility does not work without all of the parts. The team suites are not any good unless you have the fields done. The indoor facility is not doing any good until I have the team suites,” he said.

Nau said the buildings would take the most time to construct. Once the playing fields are completed, they will be maintained, but not used until the park opens.

“We are going to be bringing people in from Manchester United, we have Manchester City, we have Barcelona, we have people from Japan coming to play baseball. We have people coming from all over the world to play here for a week,” he said.

Following the testimony and public comment, a motion was made to approve the General Development Plan for Trophy Park.

Bressi, Leonard Haring Jr., Jeff Riker, Tim Dolan, Martin Flemming, Michele Campbell, Vice Chairman Robert Hudak and Chairman Joseph Riccardi voted “yes.” Board member Richard Egan voted “no.” The motion passed 8-1 and the GDP was approved.