Could This Be The Site Of A Sports Complex?

This wooded area at the corner of Hawkin Road and Route 537 may be home to Trophy Park, a $120 million sports complex. The township Planning Board will hear further testimony on the plan during its Feb. 4 meeting. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)
This wooded area at the corner of Hawkin Road and Route 537 may be home to Trophy Park, a $120 million sports complex. The township Planning Board will hear further testimony on the plan during its Feb. 4 meeting. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

JACKSON – Trophy Park, one of two sports complex projects planned in the township is pending approval of its application and testimony will continue before the Jackson Planning Board on Feb. 4.

The proposed sports complex, to be located on the corner of Route 537 and Hawkin Road is a $120 million project. It involves the development of 194 acres and is being headed by developer Alan Nau. The project includes a 6,000-seat outdoor soccer stadium.

“We are strictly sports,” Nau said, pointing out the difference between another sports complex project in the township which gained its approvals last year and is being driven by Cardinale Enterprises which also includes other forms of recreation entertainment such as wall climbing and laser tag.

Nau said the closest sports project of this type on the northeast is Cooperstown, New York which hosts youth baseball teams. Nau said his project has a wider scope and has already started to draw teams outside the country “and we don’t have a shovel in the ground.”

“We have different sports. You know the quote from that movie (“Field of Dreams”) where they say if they build it, they will come” well in this case they are coming so we have to build it,” Nau said.

The project would also include 16 baseball/softball fields with synthetic turf and a 400,000 square foot indoor arena with 18 National Basketball Association sized basketball courts on two floors. The complex would also involve volleyball, wrestling and cheerleading.

“Kids can come in the summer for a week and their parents and siblings can enjoy other things in the area during that time like Great Adventure. Even though (Six Flags and the Cardinale Enterprises) projects are different I see no conflict at all,” Nau said.

“People can make this a family vacation and do things here in Jackson or go to Atlantic City, Point Pleasant or points not that far away,” Nau said. He added that the project has the support of baseball legend Bobby Valentine as part of its baseball program.

Nau said that Jackson would be receiving approximately $2 million in taxes and a good portion of that money would go to the township school district which is currently facing a financial shortfall due to a reduction in state aid funds announced last year by Gov. Phil Murphy.

“This will bring a lot of jobs and will make history here. There is no place in the northeast that will offer the kinds of tournaments we will host. This is a $15 billion industry and we will be giving kids a lot of great opportunities,” Nau said.

However, the project has faced a few obstacles.

It is being criticized by the New Jersey Sierra Club. A press release by the environmental organization quoted its leader, director Jeff Tittel saying “Trophy Park would be built outside of the Pinelands Reserve on much of the wooded land along the shore of Prospertown Lake that was once owned by the late Stanley Switlik. The park would also be right next to the Prospertown Wildlife Management Area. This is critical forest area that drains into the Barnegat Bay.”

Tittel added that “Sky Blue FC is a partner in this project. Governor Phil Murphy is also a co-owner of the Sky Blue FC soccer club. This is the second massive sports complex proposal in Jackson. A 150-acre project, proposed by Cardinale Enterprises in June, sits on Monmouth Road adjacent to Six Flags Great Adventure.”

Nau said that while the stadium was hoped to be home to Sky Blue FC, the professional women’s soccer team Sky Blue has backed away from being a partner. Nau said he regrets recommending use of the stadium to Sky Blue as it is an adult team and the project is more youth oriented.

The developer also disagreed with the Sierra Club’s position. “They have no basis for their argument. They worry about water runoff but all 27 fields would have synthetic turf which is being used because after rain it won’t have to wait as long to dry out and the drainage system would run under and there would be more water put back into the ground. There would be no pesticides or fertilizers used and no geese on the ground. We are also using a lot of solar reusable energy.”

Nau said that while trees would be removed that development is permitted due to the project being in a commercial recreation zone which is what the project involves.

The project also faced some opposition when the application was heard at a December Planning Board meeting.

Attorney John J. Jackson III and professional planner Jerome Lange represented Nau’s plan and were questioned about whether the sports suites for team members were actually dormitories which is not permitted.

Nau said that there is a difference between a dormitory and a team suite. The code is actually more stringent for a suite because it includes more safety standards. “We offered to put in a seven-day restriction. We meet all the regulations on what is required.”

He said he will be present at the Feb. 4 meeting and is confident that his professionals were able to show the difference between what he was proposing and what a dormitory is.

“This is a $120 million investment and if I didn’t think it would work, I wouldn’t do it,” Nau said.