11 Dec ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO ANNOUNCES MODERNIZATON OF SOFTBALL/LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD AND TENNIS COURTS IN ESSEX COUNTY IVY HILL PARK IS COMPLETED Essex County & Seton Hall University Partner to Upgrade Softball/Little League Field

121115 ivy hill tennis courts

Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced on Friday, December 11th that the Mike Sheppard, Sr. Softball/Baseball Field and the four tennis courts in Essex County Ivy Hill Park have been upgraded with new facilities. The two separate projects totaled almost $2 million and took about five months to complete. Essex County partnered with Seton Hall University to modernize the Mike Sheppard, Sr. Field.

“We are pleased to have partnered with Seton Hall University to bring these significant improvements to the Mike Sheppard Field in Essex County Ivy Hill Park. This modern facility will be the perfect place for our young children to play and learn teamwork, and for the Seton Hall student-athletes to compete at the highest level,” DiVincenzo said. “Renovating the softball/baseball field and tennis courts are part of our ongoing priority to provide the most up-to-date recreation facilities for our residents and ensure our parks continue to meet the needs of the community,” he noted.

“We are very proud to have partnered with Essex County on a project that not only benefits Seton Hall student-athletes, but also the residents of our community, who deserve a great park in their neighborhood,” Seton Hall Vice President and Director of Athletics & Recreation Pat Lyons. “We, as an athletics department, have a mission to deliver the best student-athlete experience possible, and today we can say that we have delivered first-class facilities to our softball and tennis teams. With the improvements we have made, our student-athletes now have a home field advantage, our alumni have a new facility to enjoy when they come back to campus, and future Pirates have another reason to choose Seton Hall University as the place to continue their academic and athletic education,” he said.

“For me, this is where my career started and I’m proud to have this field named in my honor. It’s great that our athletic teams from Seton Hall and recreation programs in the community will have first class facilities to play on,” said Mike Sheppard, Sr., retired Seton Hall University Baseball Coach.

Coaches whose teams and programs will utilize the new recreation facilities said they welcomed the modern playing conditions and looked forward to their next season.

“I want to thank the County for allowing our school to use this softball field and all that you have done for us in the past. It is going to be great to have this type of stage to showcase our players on,” said Page Smith, Coach of the Seton Hall Women’s Softball Team.

“We appreciate that the county has developed these new tennis courts. The playing conditions will be so much better for our team at this facility,” said Gregory Wyzykowski, Head Coach of the Seton Hall Women’s Tennis Team.

“The players and fans will definitely love this new softball field. We appreciate the County Executive and Seton Hall University investing resources here and allowing our high school student-athletes to play on this field,” said Lorenzo Sozio, Athletic Director at Mt. St. Dominic Academy in Caldwell and Director of the Essex County Girls Softball Championship. For the last decade, the semifinals and finals of the county tournament as well as some State Championship games have been played in Essex County Ivy Hill Park.

Dedicated to legendary Seton Hall University baseball coach Mike Sheppard, Sr. in 2012, the field received its last upgrade in 2005 as part of a project to improve all three fields in the park. This current comprehensive upgrade included installing a new synthetic grass surface on the entire field; new field amenities, including distance markers, foul poles and bases; a new backstop and fencing around the field; a bullpen and batting cages; storage building; and new bleachers with a press box and seating capacity of 700 spectators. The existing dugout structures were renovated, upgrades were made to the scoreboard, improvements were made to the drainage system and extensive landscaping will be planted in the spring. The Sheppard Field is the home facility of the Seton Hall University Women’s Softball Team and is used by local little league baseball programs.

Hatch Mott MacDonald from Millburn received a $79,950 contract to design the field improvements. Applied Landscaping Technologies from Montville was awarded a publicly bid contract for $1,467,470 to perform the construction. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project to answer questions and avoid delays. The field upgrades were funded with a contribution from Seton Hall University and funds from the Essex County Capital Budget. Work started in July and was completed in five months.

The four tennis courts were completely rebuilt with a new playing surface, surface coating, fencing, nets, lighting, drainage system and trash receptacles. The courts were designed in-house by the Department of Public Works, which also monitored the project to answer questions and avoid delays. Sita Construction from New York was awarded a public bid contract for $361,712 to perform the construction. The tennis court reconstruction was funded through the Essex County Capital Budget. Work started in July and was completed in five months.

Revitalizing Essex County Ivy Hill Park

An 18-station fitness course, 53 ornamental light poles and a 300-foot long paved pathway in the western section of the park were completed in 2014. The softball/Little League field at the western section of the park was renamed after retired Seton Hall University Baseball Coach Mike Sheppard, Sr. in 2012. A $1.6 million facelift to install a second synthetic surface baseball/softball field, renovate two restroom buildings and enhance pathways and landscaping was completed in 2010. The garden recognizing the four students who were attacked in the Mount Vernon Elementary School playground was dedicated on April 7, 2008. A triangular stone wall – the three sides of the wall symbolizing Terrance Aeriel, Dashon Harvey and Iofemi Hightower who were killed – makes up the center of the garden. On the three outer sides of the garden, trees are planted in groups of three, again to symbolize the three students who lost their lives. A fourth stone wall that is part of the garden is meant to honor the bravery and heroism of Natasha Aeriel, who was seriously wounded during the August 4, 2007 attack. While recovering in the hospital, Natasha Aeriel worked with police to identify the suspects.

The three baseball/softball fields received an extensive $1.1 million overhaul in 2005. One of the fields received a synthetic grass surface, press box, scoreboard and dugout, while the other two fields received new sports fencing. A subsurface drainage system for the entire complex was installed to alleviate flooding. In addition, one existing basketball court near Mount Vernon Place has been replaced with two new basketball courts that are equipped with new lights and players’ benches.

In 2003, Essex County spent $105,000 to install a rubberized safety surface in the Ivy Hill playground. The project was part of a $2.5 million initiative by DiVincenzo to upgrade all playgrounds in the Essex County Park System so they met the highest national safety standards.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 22 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Essex County purchased land for Ivy Hill Park in 1927. At 18.96 acres, the park is the seventh smallest in the Essex County Park System.