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Open Space Funds Requested for Maxwell Field Upgrades

The above is a rendering of the new playground proposed at Maxwell Field

By Shay Roddy

WILDWOOD – Upgrades are planned at Maxwell Field, part of the Byrne Community Center complex, where city officials hope a county grant will pay for playground and fitness equipment in addition to a new track.  

The city planned to apply to the county’s Open Space board for funding in December. Mayor Peter Byron estimated the project at $1.6 million.  

“Wildwood has never received its fair share of Open Space money,” Byron said, in an interview. “If we didn’t get a favorable consideration, I would be very disappointed.” 

The Byrne complex, which has an indoor gym, with basketball courts and fitness equipment, and outdoor football, soccer, and baseball fields, with an undersized track, is located at Park Boulevard and Youngs Avenue, on the west side of town.  

Byron explained Fox Park, near the Wildwoods Convention Center, is the only alternative for residents to enjoy outdoor recreation activity. He said he sees Maxwell Field’s track used constantly, calling it a gathering place for people in town, a “support group” where people meet at the same time day every day to walk and talk.  

“The majority of the year-round people live on the west side. This community center, where it is right now, is where the predominance of the year-round people lives,” Byron said. “It’s accessible by walking or by bicycle.”   

He added that the track, in its current condition, is an accident waiting to happen.  

“It’s a very dangerous track. It outlived its life seven or eight years ago. There are big divots taken out of it, and it’s just one trip away from someone really being hurt,” he said.  

The track is also not regulated for hosting meets, though boundary constrictions prevent the renovation from changing that fact.  

In a Zoom call with the public and the city’s Board of Commissioners Nov. 25, Mike Zampino, from, Triad Associates, the city’s grant writer, said the new track would include fitness equipment at various stations.  

Ken Loomis, Wildwood High school’s head football coach, said during the call that a more appropriate use of funding would be to replace the field, which, he said, is “in dire shape” and “unsafe” for play.  

He argued a turf field would solve that problem and attract tournaments and other paid uses of the facility, which would also fill hotel rooms and restaurants on offseason weekends.  

Zampino responded that a turf field is not one of the approved uses for the Open Space funding, therefore it could not be done.  

Byron, after the meeting, added he couldn’t envision the city taking that project on by itself, either. 

“The investment would just be too great versus the return. I think the taxpayers would have a hard time supporting that,” he said.  

Parks and Recreation Supervisor Rich Hans asked members of the public to sign a petition of support (https://bit.ly/39EBAHX) for the upgrades. The project was expected to be presented to the Open Space board in December, where they will decide if they will fund part, all, or none of it.  

“We’re not in a financial position to do it ourselves,” Byron said, adding neighboring towns took advantage of major Open Space grants, while Wildwood has not reaped the same benefits.  

North Wildwood’s Bill Henfey Park and Wildwood Crest’s recent upgrades to Sunrise Park were funded by Open Space grants.   

According to the mayor, it’s Wildwood’s time.  

“The other municipalities have multiple playgrounds and recreation activity areas. Wildwood only has Fox Park,” said Byron. 

To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com. 

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