Now Murphy’s soccer team won’t relocate to land where trees could be chopped down

Environmentalists voiced concern over the possible new home for the team Gov. Phil Murphy co-owns.

The pro women’s soccer team co-owned by Gov. Phil Murphy will have to find its new home elsewhere.

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Sky Blue FC is pulling its support of a proposed Ocean County sports complex that may have housed its new stadium — just hours after media reports in which environmentalists voiced outrage, especially over how developers plan to cut down thousands of trees, NJ Advance Media has confirmed.

“Due to environmental concerns that have been brought to our attention, Sky Blue FC is withdrawing our support for the Trophy Park project application,” Tony Novo, the team’s general manager, said in a statement late Thursday night. 

A spokesman for Murphy deferred comment to Sky Blue.

Thousands of trees may be razed for site Murphy’s soccer team could call home

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Multiple news outlets reported earlier Thursday that SkyBlue is listed as a partner in Trophy Park, a 200-acre site proposed for a tract of land in Jackson near Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park.

Developer Allen Nau told NJ Advance Media on Thursday afternoon the Tinton Falls-based team was in “tentative” talks to rent space at the 200-acre site to house its headquarters, use the facilities for practice, and play its home games at the complex’s 6,000-seat stadium. 

For SkyBlue, it would have been a step up. The team was the subject of reports this summer describing dismal living and working conditions for players. It currently plays home games at Rutgers University in Piscataway.

Murphy — who co-owns the team with Steven Temares, the CEO of Bed, Bath & Beyond — promised in July the “unacceptable” conditions would be fixed.

But environmentalists said Trophy Park would be located in an environmentally sensitive area along Prospertown Lake.

They said the project would not only cause trees to be razed but would also lead to more traffic and runoff from cars, as well as threatened the endangered species and wetlands nearby.

They were also bothered that Murphy, a Democrat, would be involved after vowing to help the environment in New Jersey. 

Plus, the Trophy Park proposal comes a few years after environmental groups sued Great Adventure over a plan to cut down 19,000 trees to build a 90-acre solar farm. The three-year legal fight ended with clearing only 40 acres of trees.

Meanwhile, another sports complex is set to go up near Great Adventure this year: Adventure Crossing, which will include a three-acre sports dome and two hotels.

Clean Water Action, the lead plaintiff in the Great Adventure lawsuit, applauded Sky Blue’s decision to not join Trophy Park.

“Clearcutting Pinelands forest for a large active recreational complex is worse than for a solar project especially when there’s a similar sportsplex being built next door and so many already developed areas in Sky Blue’s home state in need of redevelopment,” Amy Goldsmith, the New Jersey director of the group, said in a statement. “The core contiguous forest of the Pinelands should be sacrosanct.”

Nau, Trophy Park’s developer, stressed Thursday that Murphy would only have been a “tenant” at Trophy Park.

“I just felt because we’re gonna have all these sports going there, to have a professional sports team there would be good,” Nau said. “And they were looking for a place.”

Novo said in a statement Thursday afternoon that Sky Blue did not have “any formal agreement” with the project, though “we support it.”

He added the team would be interested in any complex built by “any developer that suits our facility needs.”

“We are strongly committed to ensuring Sky Blue FC players and fans have access to first-class facilities befitting their needs,” Novo said.

Trophy Park itself may still be built without Sky Blue. A public hearing about the project is set for Monday night before Jackson’s planning board. 

Nau also said he’s addressing concerns from environmentalists.

“I want it to be something that’s going to be a pristine place,” he said.

Brent Johnson may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find Politics on Facebook.

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