Due to some helping hands and major machinery, six acres of new soccer fields are currently being built at the Field of Dreams off Libertyville Road in New Paltz for the town’s youth recreation league. According to superintendent of highways Chris Marx, the design for the soccer fields was put together back in 2009 by local engineer Andrew Willingham. The cost of the project was estimated at $300,000 — a figure too steep for the town to consider. “I worked with the soccer league and Andy and the Highway Department to try and come up with a way that we could just use our equipment and the guys from the Highway Department and get this thing built,” said Marx, who noted that they had $30,000 of seed money: $20,000 from the money the soccer league had raised via sponsorships and donations and $10,000 that the town had earmarked from its parkland fees. “Andy came back and redesigned it and we were all set to go last September, but it never stopped raining,” said Marx.
Determined to get the fields going, Marx and his crew got out there and attempted to start excavating five feet worth of earth and then depositing the soil over six acres of a hilly tract of land at the Field of Dreams. As fate would have it, Willingham called his friend Paul Colucci of Colucci Excavating to ask for some advice. “I said I’d take a look at it,” said Colucci, whose company recently completed the large section of the popular River-to-Ridge Trail (a partnership between the Open Space Institute and the Mohonk Preserve). When Colucci got out to the field and saw what had to be done, he said, “That is a $10,000-a-day job,” and couldn’t believe that Marx was trying to get it done himself with his crew and limited equipment. “That guy is unbelievable. I’ve been in business 35 years, and let me tell you, that’s not your typical elected official. This guy is so passionate and is going so above and beyond what your average highway superintendent would do. He’s all about the community.”
Colucci, who hasn’t been involved in local recreation in quite some time, since his son is now 30, was moved by the exuberance of Willingham and Marx and the soccer families and offered to send up three pieces of his own excavating equipment as well as three of his full-time employees to help get the job done. “I grew up in this community and started a business here when I had nothing, and you know what? This community has been good to me and allowed me to make a living. So when I can give back, I want to give back. It’s been a good year.”
Not only did Colucci send his equipment and employees up, but he also started making the rounds and calling up all of the excavators he knew to ask if they would donate equipment. “That’s a huge job up there, and we needed all the help we could get.”
Leo Boice and Sons out of Kingston lent the project equipment, as did Scott Cortright of H. O. Penn. “Scott’s piece of equipment alone would have cost $15,000 a week if you had to rent it,” said Colucci. “These guys really stepped up to the plate, as did Andy. He did all of the engineering work and stormwater management permits that needed to be approved, all on his own dime.”
Marx loves the camaraderie. “There’s so much equipment moving out there that we almost need a traffic cop!” he said with a laugh. “Paul really saved the day. We’ve been out there with his guys 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. I’ve never worked on something this big, and it’s been amazing to watch Paul’s guys work. It makes it fun.”
No one is more thrilled than the New Paltz town recreation soccer league. “To hear all of that equipment moving and dirt falling and metal clanging last Friday during opening day of soccer as 400 families filed into the Field of Dreams was like going to a concert!” said Bonne Masseo. “It was music to our ears. This has been in the works for 12 years, and we can’t thank Chris Marx enough, or Paul Colucci and the other excavators he called to help out. Andy has been working on this since 2009. We tried to get it started last year, but it kept on raining!” Masseo said that once she heard that Colucci and friends had gotten on board, “I’ve been glowing. We’re so excited!”
According to Marx and Colucci’s crew, the excavating is almost done; and once it is, they need to keep dumping and compacting and then grade the fields and put the topsoil and grass seed down so that it’s ready to go by next spring.
There are more than 400 children who play in the town recreation league, from three to 13 years of age. Once this project is completed, it will allow for two new soccer fields that will be rotated each year so that the goal area does not get too worn out. “The great thing is we can keep all of the fields in one place. That was really important to us,” said Masseo, who explained how friendships are built out at the soccer fields — not only between kids, but between parents and grandparents. “I just met a man this weekend who is new to town and has his child involved in town rec soccer, and he said to me that he could ‘feel the love’ up at the fields. ‘This is much more than just soccer,’ he said to me. ‘This is really a community.’”
Masseo and Colucci concurred. “Those families are donating their money and time so that their kids can play outside and get some skills. Just knowing that I may have helped some kids be able to play outside and run around, rather than sitting in front of a video game or iPhone all day, makes everything worth it,” said Colucci.
“I think it’s important that communities invest in recreation,” said Masseo, “because it helps promote healthy lifestyles from a young age.”