Middletown officials eye Mater Dei site as possible recreation complex


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MIDDLETOWN — The Township Committee in Middletown has entered into an agreement with Pinnacle Indoor Sports, Louisville, Ky., for the provision of a conceptual design of a recreation complex at 538 Church St. on property that previously housed Mater Dei High School and later Mater Dei Prep.

During a special meeting of the governing body on the afternoon of Nov. 9, Mayor Tony Perry, Deputy Mayor Rick Hibell, Committeeman Kevin Settembrino, Committeeman Ryan Clarke and Committeewoman Kimberly Kratz voted “yes” without comment on a motion to pass a resolution regarding Pinnacle Indoor Sports.

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The agreement is in the not to exceed amount of $32,000, according to the resolution, which states that Middletown “has a need to hire a specialist to provide a conceptual design of a recreation complex to be located at the site of the old Mater Dei High School.”

The anticipated term of the township’s contract with Pinnacle Indoor Sports is for one year, according to the resolution.

Pinnacle Indoor Sports also figured into an announcement municipal officials made in January.

According to an article published in the Independent, in January, the Township Committee and the Middletown Township Public Schools Board of Education announced they had retained Pinnacle Indoor Sports to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of repurposing the Port Monmouth School property to create an indoor sports and recreation center for the community.

In a press release issued by the township, Board of Education President Frank Capone was quoted as saying, “In 2019, Port Monmouth School was closed and has been vacant for the last two years. We are proud to be partnering with the township to work toward creating a much-needed indoor sports and recreation complex for the residents of Middletown, rather than selling the property to the highest bidder where it may end up being over-developed.”

Port Monmouth School is on 3 acres on Route 36. The 25,750-square-foot building has two full stories and a partial basement, according to the press release.

Perry was quoted as saying, ” … Our intention is to obtain input from our residents, local sports organizations, leagues and clubs to ensure we use this (Port Monmouth School) property to best meet the community’s needs.”

Pinnacle Indoor Sports was tasked with conducting a feasibility and market analysis that was expected to include in-person, telephone and/or virtual interviews with multiple stakeholders.

Pinnacle was expected to provide a report regarding the growth and popularity of various sports, both nationally and in Middletown, as well as unmet sports-related needs and demands in the community, according to the township’s press release.

Pinnacle was also expected to investigate ancillary use opportunities that could include non-traditional sports-related activities such as summer camps, partnerships with other area recreational organizations, and individual youth programming to help determine how the facility would be developed and operated.

Following the completion of the stakeholders interview phase and research, Pinnacle was expected to submit an executive summary report to the township and to the school board.

Middletown’s press release said the company’s report would include a financial model and an economic impact analysis. If determined to be financially feasible, the project would then move into the design consultation phase.

Following the committee’s action on Nov. 9 tasking Pinnacle Indoor Sports with providing a conceptual design for a recreation complex at the Mater Dei site, the Independent reached out to Township Administrator Tony Mercantante for an update on the company’s study regarding the Port Monmouth School site.

Mercantante said, “The Pinnacle report (regarding the Port Monmouth School) is still in draft form at this point, though it should be finalized soon. Therefore, while I cannot share a copy just yet, I can say the report tells us the site is a very viable and suitable site for the development of an indoor recreation/sports facility and that it can be done in a cost-effective manner.”

He said at the current time the township is still partnering with the school district on the potential for the Port Monmouth School project to move forward.

Asked if municipal officials’ Nov. 9 action to design a recreation facility at the Mater Dei site has replaced the idea of creating a recreation center at the Port Monmouth School, Mercantante said, “The township was recently approached by the owners of the property where Mater Dei High School sits asking if the township would be interested in acquiring it from them as they were being approached by many private developers seeking to buy it, and there was a strong preference on their part to not sell it to a developer.

“The township is therefore in the early stages of discussing this with them. We put this (agreement) into place with Pinnacle so if the talks go well, we are ready to hit the ground running and get a feasibility study going right away. This (Nov. 9 action) will not replace the Port Monmouth School site consideration; the idea will be to supplement it at this point,” Mercantante said.

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