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Rowan plants practice fields off Route 322

The fields will sit across Route 322 from the South Jersey Technology Park.

It may not be the grand plan Rowan University hopes will materialize in the future, but the school is beginning to put some of its land near its South Jersey Technology Park to use. With practice fields.

Rowan is in the process of installing two turf fields for athletic practice on the south side of Route 322, near Route 55 and across from the tech park, university spokesman Joe Cardona said. The fields take up only a portion of the approximate 300 acres on the southern section of Rowan's West Campus (it also has about 300 acres on the north side).

The fields might be described as a very slight glimpse into what Rowan has envisioned as a permanent use for the area: A major athletic hub, including retail and residential space. (You can see the school's 2013 master plan for more details.)

"Eventually all our athletic facilities will be out there one day," Cardona said, adding that the university has been looking for partnerships. Past discussions have included building a major league soccer stadium. "We have nothing concrete now."

Work on the turf fields began several weeks ago and is expected to be complete in May, Cardona said.

Rowan, which anticipates sizable enrollment growth in the years ahead, began purchasing the land off Route 322 in the 1990s. The area was long home to several farms, including Zee Orchards. The Zee family, which no longer grows peaches there, Cardona said, continues to maintain much of the land and grow crops under a long-term lease.

The new practice fields were necessitated by development on the school's Main Campus - namely the construction of two new buildings, one for business, the other engineering. Those projects required the school to build new parking areas that took the place of some previous fields.