Toms River Field of Dreams project inches closer to completion with $400,000 funding from state budget
It's the 7th inning stretch of development for the Toms River Field of Dreams project thanks to the $400,000 set aside in the state budget to help this game reach the 9th inning and the rest of the $2.5-million in funds needed to get to completion.
Governor Phil Murphy was on hand in Toms River Friday with TRFOD founder Christian Kane to tour the up and coming complex and see first hand all the work the Kane family, Toms River government leaders and community partners have poured in to making this vision become a reality.
In order to get to where the project is now, additional funding was needed.
Toms River Councilman Terrance Turnbach put on his rally cap to try and help get the project the funding it needed asking Governor Murphy's office on behalf of the township council in February to consider providing funding.
"This is all about community -- everybody coming together to get something positive done, isn't that the beauty of community? Isn't that what community is really all about," Turnbach said. "This is going to change the face of Toms River, it's going to change the face of Ocean County, it's going to change the face of New Jersey and the beauty of it is the inclusivity of everybody playing together, I can't wait to see it."
It's been a project that's had the backing of Toms River government since the first pitch.
"This Field of Dreams will give us a unique opportunity and an innovative opportunity for special needs children to have recreational experiences," Toms River Mayor Maurice "Mo" Hill said. "It's a very positive move forward for the town."
The funding was needed as the project ran into a bases loaded jam during the pandemic as Christian Kane said they lost two major construction entities who were going to donate equipment, labor and their time but those companies lost laborers and income last year.
"You're extremely nervous because it's hard to raise money during a pandemic when no-one can really go out and do anything and then that day that Terrance (Turnbach) called me and said 'hey, listen there's a chance that the governor would like to help out'," Kane said.
So Kane was relieved when the $400,000 came through via the state budget this year so they can complete the project.
"It's just a relief because now that's one less thing that I have to worry about," Kane said.
As the budget was being put together and introduced, Governor Murphy said it was not a difficult process to secured the funding for Field of Dreams.
"Honestly, no, in the Legislature, we've been in a really good place for the last couple years and they were terrific on this and I think everybody looked at this and said it was a no brainer from both sides of the aisle," Murphy said.
The Toms River Field of Dreams could end up leading to more such facilities across the state.
"I think it is a game changer, clearly for Toms River and Ocean County, but I think it's a game changer because it's a model of what we could do elsewhere as a state and I would bet as a country, so I think it's a big, big deal," Murphy said.
Now that the dream is close to becoming a reality, Christian Kane and is wife Mary are hopeful that everyone will come in, not just for baseball, but play mini-golf, head to a fitness station or on a walking path and above all, to spend time with loved ones and just have fun regardless of your age and ability.
"It's comprised of bocce and basketball courts, an inclusive playground where a grandmother who had a stroke who used to play with her 3 grandchildren can now be the grandmother before her stroke," Christian Kane said.
"Unfortunately, we've lost a lot of friends, from children to adults over the course of us trying to build this facility, they've been supporters all along and now the only thing we'll have in their place is their memory and a plaque with a home plate at the field and their spirit of course, but I want to see all of those people that we started out to make this facility for, I just want to see the faces, the laughter, the smiles...I can't wait for that, especially on my son's face," Mary Kane said.
Mary and Christian's son Gavin, was 19-months old when he suffered a significant head injury in a 2012 car accident, leaving him without the ability to walk and talk and they've been working to get this project going so kids and adults like Gavin can go play like everyone else.
At the end of the movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner, his character, Ray Kinsella, is seen playing catch with his father.
It's something that could play out before our eyes at the Toms River Field of Dreams.
"That idea of being able to roll him through the gates, for the very first time...to me would be indescribable," Christian Kane said.
The Toms River Field of Dreams facility is tentatively scheduled to open up in October and will be a place where everyone will be on the same playing field in more ways than one.