"There were wooden stands and no press box," Sacco said. "There were no lights and the field was in complete disrepair. There was no place to play soccer. It was really an eyesore. With the amount of use the facility received, the field was so overused and so damaged. Fixing the field was always something I dreamed of."
Last week, Sacco's dreams came true when the township officially unveiled the completed and totally renovated Bruins Stadium, complete with a $1.2 million facelift that includes a new artificial turf main playing surface, a totally rebuilt and refurbished synthetic running track, a new playground and a new adult workout area called a Par Course facility.
"We now have a state-of-the-art facility, one of the best in New Jersey," Sacco said after taking a walking tour of the completed athletic compound with other township officials. "We now have a first-class running track that we're able to have top track meets that we haven't been able to do for a while."
The running track is made of a synthetic rubberized material which will cushion the impact of the runners using it.
The main playing field now features FieldTurf, the exact same of surface now used at Giants Stadium. However, thanks to the recommendations of legendary North Bergen football Coach Vince Ascolese, the field also has a special layer of padding underneath the FieldTurf surface that makes the playing surface even softer and lessens impact when running or tackling on it.
"The padding will extend the life of the field for about five to 10 years," Sacco said.
The FieldTurf surface will now enable all different sports and programs to be played there, like the boys' and girls' soccer teams, as well as some recreation football events. In the past, the natural grass would get torn up and limit the activity to only the high school varsity football team.
The new playing field also requires minimal maintenance and has been equipped with a new drainage system that will keep games from being postponed due to wet grounds.
Added as well was the innovative Par Course Fitness Center, which can be used by people of all ages, but is geared more for the adult fitness aficionado who wants to do more than simply jog around the running track.
"One of our recreation supervisors, Joe Rotondi, mentioned that there was an area of the park that was underutilized," said Allen Pascual, the commissioner in charge of parks and recreation for the township. "We always saw people doing push-ups and sit-ups in the grass, so now they have a place where they can work out properly. We saw this Par Course workout facility and it was cost efficient. It made sense to us to add it to the stadium."
The Par Course Fitness Center features five stations where people can work out in a variety of exercises. Each station offers illustrations of instructions how to properly use the facility.
The complete renovation cost $1.2 million, $500,000 came from a federal Green Acres Funds grant. The North Bergen Department of Public Works and Parks and Recreation Departments helped out in a number of areas, like putting down the blacktop macadam in the parking lot and near the bleachers, as well as restoring and refurbishing the press box area, to a savings of more than $100,000.
"Our workers definitely did a lot of work," Pascual said. "They really did a fantastic job. We had a goal to get everything ready for the start of the football season and we were just about on schedule with everything. The football team has already been playing there and now, the entire facility is open to the public. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. It actually turned out nicer than anticipated."
Sacco said that he was working on legislation that would enable the town to receive more state funding on the project with New Jersey Green Acres Fund monies.
"We're looking to get a matching grant," Sacco said. "I'm really proud of the way it turned out. We really needed this. It's now a great facility for the public and for all of our kids who use the facility regularly. It's a great sports facility and I'm very proud that our community would be supportive of doing this. I encourage everyone to come and see it and use it."