Below is a reprint of an article written in 1999 by Jeff Benjamin about the need for an indoor track on Staten Island.
Staten Island in Desperate Need of Indoor Track and Field Facility
by Jeff Benjamin
SI Advance Writer Jack Minogue makes in an excellent point in last Thursday's article that the Staten Island Running and Track and Field community is in desperate need of an indoor track and field facility.
With over 20 High School Track Programs, Big Apple games, CYO, JCC, Staten Island running clubs, and various other youth and adult participants, one can argue that Running and Track and Field involve more people than almost any other Island sport. Yet, when the winter months come upon us, finding a place to train, as well as compete can prove very difficult.
As an Island High School Track Coach, my team, along with the others, must usually make the trip up to 168th street Armory in fort Washington. While the facility is outstanding, and some meets are ones you don't dare let your athletes miss, the trips can prove very costly. Renting out a bus to take the kids is a high cost for a Private and Public School program (Public Schools Coaches are forbidden to take the athletes themselves via car or risk job termination), as well as for Youth programs as well. With the small budgets allocated to us by the PSAL, coaches must be very careful in the meets that we choose to compete in. The days of getting a bus for every indoor meet are pretty much over. The same can probably be said of our CHSAA Coaching partners as well. Fund raising and generous donations are pretty much the norm for Coaches these days. Unfortunately, those of us who cannot afford a bus every week must take the Staten Island Ferry to the # 1 Train and travel through the subway, a trip which could take anywhere between 50 minutes and an hour and a half. When the athletes are done at the Armory, a seasoned athlete or Coach can tell you that one never knows the exact time a team can return to the Island, as some meets can go as long as 12 Hours. Public transportation athletes may also be left on the Manhattan side of the Ferry Terminal waiting for the hourly boat to finally arrive. Once on the island, the athlete must now get home somehow. For the past 5 years, our Staten Island Public School Championships take place on a Friday afternoon in January, and usually does not end until 10PM. So, your guess is as good as mine as to what time our athletes get home. One must also wonder how SI Advance Writers George Kochman and Derek ALvez meet their deadlines in reporting the results of this meet as well. In a way, we track coaches are lucky in that we have very dedicated athletes who make these trips so they can be the best they can be. But, they deserve better.
An indoor track and field facility on Staten Island would be a great benefit to this community. Meets would be held on the Island, which would save us all the unnecessary transportation costs (both financial and physical) to the Armory every weekend for non-championship meets, which some of us are required to participate in so as to insure our championship eligibility. Transportation money now not used can be infused into our track programs, something we sorely need and are constantly trying to raise, either through our schools or the private sector. Also, we would finally be able to hold our Staten Island Catholic/Public Indoor High School Championships on the Island, a meet which we now hold at the Armory, usually in March when our athletes are past their peak and gearing up for outdoor season (Despite the best efforts of SI League president Jim Hughes, Tom Cuffe and Tom Kelly to secure an earlier date, other larger groups, colleges and corporations get more priority than us in setting up meets at the Armory). A Staten lsland Indoor Championship would also make it easier on the track parent, supporter and fan who wish to attend locally and not drive up to the Armory to see who are the fastest and strongest Staten Islanders in their events. Also, their kids would be home at a reasonable time.
While it has been reported that the Track/Running powers of Staten Island do have disagreements on many issues, we are all united in wanting to try to get an indoor track and field facility on Staten Island, since it benefits us all.
In 1996, SIAC President Bob Orazem set up a group to look into getting such a facility. CSI Architect Ralph Giordano drew up the design plans for such a facility, and the committee came up with innovative and positive ideas to try and make this work. But, so far, despite everyone's best efforts, nothing has happened. Mr. Louis Wein has gotten his proposal off the ground for a Giant sports facility along the remnants of the old navy homeport by the SI ferry, although I don't know where that plan stands as far as establishing an official , competition standard indoor track and field facility where we could practice and hold meets.
Our great borough has indoor pools, indoor hockey rinks , as well as other types of sports complexes throughout the Island. Thanks to the efforts of Borough President Guy Molinari, Congressman Vito Fossella, Eric Vitaliano, Jerome O'Donovan, as well as our other representatives in the state assembly and the city council, these facilities have become realities in our borough, answering a great need to provide them for our community, in our community. These leaders, who have also done much to support track teams as well as local road races throughout the borough for many years, have used their resources for all of us in the past, and are not unfamiliar with this need.
It would be a great thing for them to gather up their resources once again and provide for this community something we desperately need; an indoor track facility. This is definitely worth it. Maybe it can be done, and maybe it can't, but until it is a reality, then Staten Island athletes, young and old, will continue to do their training in tight school halls or outside in the frigid, icy weather. High School athletes in particular will continue to attend meets every weekend, from late November until March, at the 168th street Armory, leaving their homes to get to the ferry at 7AM, and getting home to their parents God knows when.