Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced an initiative to name the athletic complex under construction in Essex County Vailsburg Park as the “Ronald L. Rice Athletic Complex” after NJ State Senator Ron Rice. A resident of Newark, Senator Rice announced he was retiring from the NJ State Senate on August 31st after serving for 35 years.
“As a Marine veteran, Newark Councilman and State Senator, Ron Rice always fought for what he believed. I’ve known Ron for over 50 years and two things have been consistent: he’s always been a staunch advocate for his constituents and the City he loves, and you always knew where he stood on an issue,” DiVincenzo said on Friday, August 19th after learning about Rice’s retirement announcement. “From working together on recreation programs when we were both younger to tackling issues throughout the years that affected Newark and Essex County, I always have appreciated his candor, energy and insight. Ron is a unique individual and the void created by his retirement will be difficult to fill,” he added.
“As County Executive, I have named buildings and fields after people who made a positive difference in our community and Ron Rice definitely is one of those people,” DiVincenzo said. “Naming the athletic complex after Ron is a fitting way to recognize his numerous contributions and keep his legacy alive for future generations,” he added.
Essex County Vailsburg Park is located in Newark’s West Ward, which is the heart of District 28, which Rice has represented for the last 35 years. Currently under construction in the park is a new athletic complex that includes a football/soccer field, baseball field and softball field – all with synthetic grass surfaces – and a rubberized running track. The facilities will be available to the community and will become the home base for student athletic programs at Essex County Donald M. Payne, Sr. School of Technology and the other county vocational schools. It is scheduled to be completed in December 2022.
Rice has been a member of the NJ State Senate for 35 years and currently is the longest serving Black lawmaker in New Jersey history. He currently is the second longest serving state lawmaker and previously served 18 years as Chairman of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus.
Rice has been a strong advocate for social justice issues and supported the construction of recreational facilities in urban areas as a way to lift blighted communities. He backed clean energy for neighborhoods planted atop Superfund sites and was a torchbearer for boosting diversity in law enforcement.
Before being elected as a State Senator, he was Deputy Mayor of Newark for four years, a Newark City Councilman for 16 years, a Newark Police Detective for eight years and served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, attaining rank of Sergeant.
The County Executive’s proposal will be sent to the Essex County Board of County Commissioners for their review.