MIDDLETOWN, NJ – The Middletown Board of Education and Township Committee gathered today at Nut Swamp Elementary School to break ground on the first of two new artificial turf fields.

“This is a great day for Middletown Township, the school district and the local sports community,” said Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger. “This new field will be invaluable to our school children and many active athletic leagues.”

The field, which is located at Nut Swamp Elementary School adjacent to Normandy Park, will be open to students and local athletic leagues for football, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and other sports. Construction is slated to begin in early July and scheduled to be completed before school starts, the mayor said.

The project is the first step in a recent shared-services agreement struck between Middletown Township and the Public School District for joint maintenance and periodic upgrades of township and school athletic fields over the next decade.

By collaborating on field upgrades and maintenance, township and the school district expect to save on personnel costs, purchase more materials in bulk and more efficiently maintain fields on a regular basis, Scharfenberger said.

Under the agreement, the school district contributed $250,000 to the $1.16 million project at Nut Swamp School. The municipal share will be paid for with increases to recreation fees that were approved last year. The township will handle issuing permits to use the field, said Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante.

The artificial turf will not need to be watered or cut, requiring less regular maintenance and less expense than traditional grass, added Mercantante.

A second artificial turf field will be built on the north end of town, possibly at Thorne Middle School and Harmony Elementary School, which are adjacent to each other. That field is expected to be constructed in 2014, Mercantante said.