A small crowd gathered at Shunpike Field on Saturday to celebrate the grand opening of the completion of the project that took 17 months for what was originally estimated to be a six-month project.
"It was a massive undertaking and turned out to be the wettest season we have had with an unprecedented amount of snow," said Chatham Township Mayor Nicole Hagner, who added that it took 800 trucks of fill, 3,500 tons of stone, 115 tons of TPE pellets (turf field) and 3.5 acres of sod to get the new athletic complex to completion.
The donations to make the $2.4 million project possible came from all avenues. Both Chatham Township and Chatham Borough paid for a good portion of the complex, and Chatham Athletic Foundation contributed an estimated $600,000.
Many local businesses and private donors also contributed to the effort. River Grille provided lunch for the event's attendees and The Farm at Green Village donated the statue in the courtyard.
Chatham Township Committeeman Bailey Brower Jr., and his wife Nancy, donated an American flag for the complex. Brower, whose family has been in the Chathams since the early 1700s, said the complex represents a "unity between the two towns and a working relationship that I think that has been long overdue."
"This is extremely positive for the future when these projects have to go on because we are not through yet—this is just the beginning because it is going to create more recreational need," Brower added, citing the growing boys and girls lacrosse program as well as junior sports.
"This field is the kind of thing that is the answer to our joint problems," he continued.
Dozens of children were out playing flag football on the turf during the ceremony. After the amount of rain from Friday night, it wouldn't have been possible with a natural grass field, according to Brian McNany, Chatham's recreation director.
"We have 180 kids today and a full schedule of activities with field hockey this afternoon and boys and girls lacrosse tonight," he said, adding that "we have a lot of opportunity and flexibility with the turf."
The fields also have lights (donated by CAF), giving Chatham athletes a second field to play on during dark hours (Nash also has lights). The grass fields give Chatham baseball players a "state-of-the-art baseball facility with grass infields that will be ready for spring," McNany said.
The design of the field allows for quick drainage after heavy rain and allows play during light rain, according to Hagner, who added that the topsoil was also aerated and sifted through to remove clay.
Hagner thanked former Mayor Kevin Tubbs who "worked tirelessly" back in 2009 to get the project approved. Chatham Borough Mayor Nelson Vaughan thanked the generosity of the municipalities and CAF for making it all possible.
"We came together and created a huge something out of nothing," said Paul Ivans, CAF president. Ivans thanked dozens of people, including the 600 individuals, families and businesses in town that purchased bricks for the courtyard. He thanked the original CAF trustees who had the dream to fix the fields in both of the Chathams and former president Tom Winter, also one of the founders.
"We rely on the community to come to us," said Winter, who added that they spent six months interviewing families back in 2004, when CAF first started.
"It's the town's foundation," he said, adding that there will always be a need and that's where CAF will help out. He mentioned donating field hockey sticks to keep the Chatham MIddle School program going, helping out with the high school fencing program, fixing the JV field behind the high school.
"It's all about the little stuff," he said, "as well as the big stuff."