After 15 years, the president of the Belleville Soccer Association, Charlie Hood, said he was ready to give up on the club if the council did not approve its permit to use the municipal stadium during the spring.
But at Tuesday's town council meeting, where the club took up the entire right side of the assembly, the permit was unanimously approved.
The turf field was originally reserved for baseball only during that time. The club was then forced, during March to June, to play in Weequahic Park, Newark, the nearest field able to be reserved, said Hood.
“I was dragging these kids all the way down there to play home games and practices and it was just not a safe place,” Hood said.
The largest concern of coaches, for the club, was that they were losing players to other towns with these restrictions during those months.
“We did a lot of the work on the field, lining it and buying goals as a non-profit association,” said coach Gaston Serron. “We weren’t sure why they wouldn’t let us use the field.”
“The whole part of this ordinance is that Belleville kids play first,” Deputy Mayor Steven Rovell said, in reference to why the council did not vote on it last meeting. Since, the association is a club, from U-9 to U-17, the council wanted to see the rosters to make sure it was benefiting the players of Belleville.
Now, with soccer being so popular in the town, where the high school team has more students try out for soccer than any other sport, the association has thrived in the last few years, Hood said. “We had an eight-week summer camp where 150 kids came out.”
The town council had the municipal stadium dug up in 2009 for a $2.3 million turf renovation. And now, the association’s 12 teams can start playing on March 28 at the “beautiful facility [that] we are lucky to have,” Hood said.