Montclair’s Immaculate Conception launches Codey Field renovation
PHOTO BY ANDREW GARDA/STAFF
by Andrew Garda
If you’ve driven down Orange Road in the South End over the last month, you might have noticed a football field suddenly appearing along the side of the road.
That’s Codey Field, and it’s been there a long time. You may just be noticing it because Immaculate Conception High School, which, along with Immaculate Conception Church, owns the land, has embarked upon a beautification project for the field and the field house.
The first step, according to Ryan Horan, football coach and high school athletic director, was to pull down the overgrown shrubbery, chain-link fence and barbed wire that surrounded the field. The fence was replaced with decorative fencing by A-Able Fences, and will eventually also run along the brook near the field house.
The field was cleaned up by alumnus Charles Smith with a crew of volunteers from Comcast, on “Comcast Cares Day” on April 22.
Getting the bushes and fence down was a big first step, said Horan.
“What we’re doing now is step one and the idea now is to open it up and let people know we’re here.”
While the field will primarily be used for football, Horan hopes the school will be able to use it for many other things.
“We’re working on this to make it a really beautiful piece of land that can facilitate more than just football,” Horan said. “So we’ve done some landscaping, and are taking down trees and bushes which were overgrown…. We’re going to do some more landscaping with bushes and flowers to outline the whole field.”
Horan and the school are cognizant of their place in the neighborhood and want to fit in.
“We want our neighbors to be proud to live next to this field,” Horan said.
Once the land around the field has been beautified, they’ll move to the next task: the field house.
“We’re going to start with an exterior renovation, taking down where the windows are boarded up and putting in new windows,” Horan said, adding that the exterior would be painted and the interior renovated as well.
That interior renovation isn’t quite ready for launch, however. As always, financing has to happen first.
“What we’re able to do as a small Catholic school is based solely on fundraising,” Horan explained. “It’s really due to the charitable donations of our alumni, our friends and local businesses. This project is kind of being spearheaded by local group of alumni with strong ties to our athletic program and really want to see this place regrown and restored to what it once was.”
Among the small businesses donating time, effort and materials are A-Able fencing and O’Boyle Landscaping.
Horan says A-Able owner Bill Burns has basically done all the fencing at no cost, and that O’Boyle Landscaping has done the tree and bush removal and will help with future landscaping efforts.
While the landscaping and fencing work has mostly been donated, the work on the field house will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a “couple hundred thousand dollars.”
A small group of alumni has been putting funds together and so far half of the money has been pledged, Horan said. Once the other half is raised, renovation work on the structure can start.
The landscaping should be done by the time the team takes the field over Labor Day weekend, and the hope is that the exterior of the house will see some paint by then. The rest of the work will be done after the season, some during the winter but most of it next spring and summer.
On the field, the press box is being rebuilt and getting a new set of stairs, as well as a small equipment shed underneath it,
There are also no plans right now to add to the current bleachers or to put some on the visitor’s side. For many years there had been wooden bleachers—built by alumni, Horan said—on both sides, but they eventually deteriorated and broke down. For now there will just be bleachers on the home side.
The field itself will be largely left alone. The grass surface stays, and will not become artificial turf or another surface.
“We’re a fan of the natural surface, the natural grass,” Horan said. “Just lots of water and landscaping work. We’re trying to make this field as strong and beautiful as it can be.”
The same goes for the whole of Codey Field, from the fences to the field house. With their efforts to improve the area, the football program at Immaculate Conception High School hopes it can become closer to the neighborhood and a positive aspect of it.