North Wildwood to close on field purchase

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NORTH WILDWOOD—The Eighth Street field will remain a hub for sports and community events in North Wildwood, as the city planned to close its deal on the property Friday.

The city first announced plans to buy the field from the Camden Diocese in May, and bonded $3 million for the purchase that month. The closing price of the deal was $2.9 million for the 20 lots that make up the field, City Clerk Scott Jett said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

“There was absolutely no guarantee it was going to remain recreation space,” City Council President Patrick Rosenello said Wednesday of the field. “There was a possibility the lots there could go to development, and that was the impetus to do this.”

Peter Lomax, chairman of the county’s Open Space Review Board, said in a letter Aug. 14 that the board would recommend that the county reimburse North Wildwood the $3 million for the land acquisition, pending appraisals of the property.

North Wildwood officials say the field’s purchase was one of the first recreation properties to be considered by the Open Space board for reimbursement because changes were made to the board’s funding regulations in 2012. Those changes allowed for the revenue raised from the county-wide open space tax to go toward parks, recreation and historical preservation as well as farmland.

Council President Patrick Rosenello said that Mayor Bill Henfey went before the board about a year ago and proposed the idea to buy the field and preserve it as open recreational space. On Oct. 22 of this year, the county freeholders approved a resolution that issued a $3,200 contract for an appraisal of the field to Ronald Hagel.

“The land acquisition will be covered hopefully by county Open Space and improvements will be footed by the city,” Rosenello said Wednesday.

North Wildwood currently has a concept for what improvements will be made to the site, which are set to cost under $750,000.

“Our intention is to keep pretty much what is there now and add some additional amenities,” Rosenello said.

The large open field used for football games and soccer is set to remain as is, Rosenello said. The baseball diamond and fencing will be redone, and new basketball courts are also part of the concept. Restrooms at the field are also slated to be added, as well as storage for equipment.

Those improvements may be done in stages, and some may be started by spring 2014. 

Wildwood Catholic, as well as other local schools, will be allowed to use the field as they always have for athletics and events. Though now, the land will be public property.

“The diocese and the parish locally, they had always been very, very gracious and generous with that field as it relates to public access to it,” Rosenello said. “Now, it will be a public recreation facility and it will be open and available to the public.”

The field is commonly known as the Eighth Street Field, but Rosenello said council is open to suggestions about giving the field a new name.

“I grew up going to the Eighth Street Field to play soccer,” Rosenello said. “We’re open if someone comes up with an appropriate name.”

The closing of the sale was set for 2 p.m. Dec. 20, after the Leader’s early deadline for print.

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