The city council postponed a vote on a 30-year agreement with a Bergen County soccer club on Tuesday night that would have given the club priority use rights over two Pennington Park fields for sporting events.
Under the agreement Cedar Stars Academy will spend $2 million to renovate two fields at Pennington Park to utilize for soccer clinics, camps, leagues, training sessions, games, and tournaments.
In return, the academy wants priority scheduling rights at the fields. The park has four fields. Its stadium field, the largest in the park, and the baseball diamond will still be available for public use, at all times. When the academy is not using the other two fields for soccer the public will be able to utilize them, according to officials.
Some have raise questions about the agreement and whether it is wise to hand over control of the two fields to the academy for 30 years.
“It would exclude Patersonians from using the park,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, who expressed reservation from the very start.
“It’s very minimal the amount of time they’ll give to the community,” added Alex Mendez, councilman at-large. The academy wants to utilize the fields year around from Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to the agreement before the council.
During the summer months – June to August – the academy wants priority scheduling from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Jackson said the time guaranteed to the academy are peak hours when local teams utilize the fields. “Those are the hours when most athletics programs are practiced,” he said.
The academy has agreed to enroll 300 city children at no cost every year to its soccer program, according to the agreement.
“This is a great investment for the city,” said Benjie Wimberly, the city’s recreation coordinator, who supports the agreement.
“I wouldn’t support any program that leaves Paterson kids behind,” Wimberly told the council on Tuesday night.
The city may need a concurrent resolution from the Passaic County Freeholder Board before entering into an agreement with the academy, said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. He said the park was renovated using county open space funds.
“We don’t think that issue is a problem,” said Domenick Stampone, the city’s law director. He said he has held conversations with the county’s attorney about whether the agreement requires county approval.
Freeholder director Theodore “TJ” Best also has come out against the agreement.
The council intends to hold further discussions on the agreement before voting on it, said officials.
“It’s completely giving the park to the developer,” added Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, who represents the area where the park is situated.