Our kids and soccer club deserve better playing conditions
Our kids and soccer club deserve better playing conditions
Dear Honorable Union County Commissioners,
On May 13th ,2021 an email was sent to all of the Union County Commissioners with the following email below. Till today we have not received a call or an email to acknowledge the problem. Two years ago with your help we gathered 800 signatures in a matter of days and we were asked to take it down. This may cost us our program but we can no longer sit on the sidelines and keep silent. The latest email that was sent read:
Please accept this email as a friendly reminder that we are still here, a non-profit, Union-County based youth soccer organization. We are an organization that prides itself in bringing soccer to children whose parents are not the affluent, deep pocketed type that other soccer organizations market to. We are not the academies or programs that charge $1,800 - $2500 or more per season/per player of which there are plenty currently running in Union County. What we are is a youth soccer organization that wants every child, regardless of their parent’s affluence, to have a world class soccer experience. We run on a lean budget, with most of our operating income coming from sponsorships. We require the help of various entities to be able keep our program accessible to all children, and that includes the help of our local politicians and government officials when asking for access to fields and other amenities that allow us to compete with other high-cost soccer clubs.
2 years ago we started a campaign to bring attention to the poor state of fields we had access to. At the time we were using the fields at Conant Park and Rutgers Ave Park (Hillside, NJ). These fields were horrific. Dirt patches that quickly became mud patches every time it rained. Children are getting hurt while warming up and during gameplay because of large holes, tire tracks from large trucks, and large dips in the fields (to be safe for all players, soccer fields need to be even and level). After multiple attempts to try and convince local authorities to provide us with better resources, we were forced to take a more offensive approach, and started a petition as well as contacted local media. For your convenience, please see the links below to revisit some of our efforts:
Our petition on Change.org with almost 1000 supporters:
Given these efforts, we were able to secure a meeting with Freeholder Sergio Granados and Parks Director Ron Zuber. During that meeting Mr. Granados and Mr. Zuber explained to us that there were fields that we could not use because of prior commitments, but that there are other fields that we could use in the interim, while other premier fields were being completed (turf and grass fields already painted, with lights). We were also notified of the county’s efforts to complete a number of turf fields, and how we would be given a chance to petition for those fields first but that never happened.
There are many soccer organizations in Union County and what we can not comprehend is how certain clubs/organizations have access to in-town fields but also using up county permits. This gives us the impression that the bigger organizations are allowed to continue to grow and attract more players, since they have better conditions, and dare we say the benefit of favoritism. Meanwhile the smaller clubs have to fight just to keep afloat and figure it out on their own.
We are asking for FAIR PLAY, both on and off the field!
Although we appreciate the help we received after our meeting, the change we experienced was not stellar. Since that meeting we were awarded a short window to use the Meisel Park turf field on Sunday’s, from noon to 4pm. Although we are grateful for having access to a turf field for these hours, it is still a bit too little, especially since the teams we play against are often looking for games to occur outside of those hours, and puts us in a predicament for Saturday games. Additionally, a 4 hour window is simply not enough to accommodate our association as we seek to expand our teams. Add to all this the fact that we don’t have access to a turf field for practices (or at least access to a proper practice field that doesn’t turn into a swamp every time it rains), and you can see our concern. Add to all this certain discrepancies we encounter like undated permits, knowledge of clubs out there leasing public space because they hold an excess of permits, and that we still are unable to access Conant St Park after it has been fixed, and you can certainly understand our concern. Also, of extreme concern especially with regards to health and safety, is the declining conditions of the Rutgers Ave Field. There is a constant fowl smell throughout the field which we feel is due to the pollution clearly visible in the nearby Elizabeth River. This poses serious health threats for our players, coaches, staff and parents.
We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has sadly delayed many county-wide projects. But it seems that this has not been an issue for other clubs and soccer associations to acquire access to new fields, many of which have been in business for a shorter time than our organization. We identify as an independent soccer club, but it seems this is in fact a negative as our competitors who are affiliated to social clubs or have some political tie seem to have no issues acquiring space in fields throughout the county. Or maybe the issue is that we don’t charge our soccer parents the high fees charged by some of our competitors, which makes our ability to make any form of political contribution impossible (let us reiterate again, we are a 501c3 organization, a charity). And when there are out of county soccer associations using Union County fields, that will further deplete the availability of organizations to have access to these spaces.
At this point we leave this matter in your hands. We feel that our young athletes more than deserve playing spaces that are safe, and instill a sense of pride and home field advantage. We feel that access to the better fields should not be a matter favoritism, but a matter of merit. We are not asking for a lot and we know that our kids are totally worth it. We are looking for some availability with a turf field, during the weekdays and weekends to conduct practices and games. An alternative is to grant us access to quality grass fields with lighting, so that we have safe playing conditions for all players, and don’t have to worry about securing the lights after every use. Ultimately, we want access to better soccer fields….and not random patches of grass as we have been playing on for the last five years