EDGEWATER, N.J. — This year was going to be the year in Edgewater.
Hundreds of children in the borough's American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) would finally have a home field: the newly-renovated Veterans Field in Edgewater.
The athletes — from Edgewater, Palisades Park and Leonia — have been playing at Sylvan Park in Leonia.
That dream never came true.
AYSO players, their parents and directors say the borough officials retracted their promise to have small-sided lines painted on the field, so that the organization's younger athletes would also be able to play home games on the field.
Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland says painting lines on the field, permanent or temporary, was never part of the deal.
"THAT IS A COMPLETE LIE!!!," McPartland told Daily Voice in an email.
"I have nothing to say to those people... AYSO IS NOT A LEONIA OR EDGEWATER RECREATION PROGRAM!!! It is a pay to play for profit independent organization."
AYSO official Portia Amato said the organization is completely non-profit, and all of the funds go back to the organization.
The mayor also said the borough will be creating its own soccer program.
Amato, the commissioner of AYSO's noncompetitive league and president of its travel league, was contacted by Edgewater Recreation Director Jill Sullivan in January, seeking a soccer organization with a "strong foundation" to utilize the new field instead of making a new Edgewater team, Amato told Daily Voice.
Amato said Sullivan helped her organize everything they'd need at the new field. She even set up appointments to have a contractor paint the lines.
"We were moving full steam ahead since January," Amato told Daily Voice.
"They told us they were going to paint the lines and then the lines would either go away over the winter with rain and snow, or [the borough] would have them professionally pulled up."
One week before the season started, Amato and others in the organization began hearing grumblings that borough officials no longer wanted the small-sided lines on the field.
Sullivan told Amato the contractor's first appointment to paint the lines was cancelled due to rain, Amato said. The contractor told Amato he only had one appointment and it was scheduled for Thursday, pending a final discussion in Edgewater, Amato said.
Daily Voice called and texted Sullivan Sunday at 5:30 p.m. She did not return the texts or the call as of 11 p.m.
Until AYSO and the borough come to a resolution, all games will be played in Leonia.
"It's frustrating," said Tony Berlin, who was looking forward to having his 10-year-old daughter on home turf.
"Parents here were upset because we were excited about playing home games here and now we can’t play on our brand new field."
Berlin has gathered 168 signatures on a petition that he and nearly a dozen other AYSO parents will present to borough officials at Monday's meeting. He needs 300 total.
"We are asking the Mayor and City to reverse their decision and allow two temporary soccer field lines to be painted at Veterans Field in Edgewater," the petition says.
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