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New York Relays
April 17-18, 2009 at Icahn Stadium
Donna on the Side
by Donna Dye
It's spring and time for the New York Relays at Icahn Stadium.
2009 is the fifth year of the New York Relays sponsored by the Randall's Island Sports Foundation at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island in New York City.
The first New York Relays was held in 1966 on Randall's island and on the same spot but in Downings Stadium, a stadium that stood crumbling for many years, torn down in 2002 and replaced by the Icahn stadium. Joe Fox of Fordham Prep and several other Catholic High School Association coaches started the first New York Relays, the same weekend as Penn Relays. Dr. Norbert Sander writes in "The Rebirth of the NY Relays", on the New York Armory web site that, "Coach Fox felt that New York schools were under-appreciated at Penn and decided to go head to head with them. With some gentle arm-twisting, many New York City schools stayed home and the first New York Relays sponsored by the New York Daily News was a tremendous success with over 10,000 spectators in attendance. The rift with Penn was quickly healed and the New York Relays moved to the week before Penn, just as this year. Hampered by the aging facilities at Downing Stadium, the New York Relays were discontinued in 1984."
Today's New York Relays were made possible through a massive undertaking of the Randall's Island Sports Foundation. The Foundation was founded in 1992 as a public-private partnership to work on behalf of Randall's Island Park. The Foundation, in conjunction with City leadership, is working to develop sports and recreational facilities including restoring its vast natural environment, reclaiming and maintaining parkland, and sponsoring community-linked programs for the children of New York City. As part of the history of Randall's Island, the New York Relays fits into the Foundation's mission. For more information, see the Foundation web site.
The revived New York Relays of today enjoy the fantastic facilities of Icahn Stadium, one of only two Class 1 internationally certified tracks in the United States. The Stadium has a very fast 400 meter Mondo surface running track, with covered spectator seating for 5,000. It also has anti-doping facilities, modern locker rooms, and fitness, exercise and meeting rooms. The Stadium also includes a modern dance studio to broaden the spectrum of activities for children and young adults.
(Sources: Randall's Island Sports Foundation, Wikipedia, NY Armory and IAAF web sites)
Renovations Keep On Coming
In 2007, DyeStat toured Randall's Island and reported on the renovations in progress. At the time a lot had already been done to recover the area for use in sports and recreational activities. See for the 2007 report in Donna on the Side
This year DyeStat toured the island again.
Randall's Island is really two islands -- Randall and Ward -- connected by fill dirt in the 1930's. The area is still divided by name as the north end is Randall's Island and the south end Ward's Island. Access to the island is from the Triborough Bridge to the north or a foot bridge at the south end.
These islands were purchased from a Native American tribe in 1637 by the Dutch governor general of New York. They were sold to private citizens and then later sold to the City of New York. Through the years the islands were used as a burial ground for the poor, a poorhouse, house of refuge for juvenile delinquents, an Idiot Asylum, a homeopathic hospital, an Inebriate Asylum and a rest home for Civil War veterans. It was Robert Moses, New York City Parks Commissioner during the 1930's, who envisioned the island, and particularly Downing Stadium, as a major sports, entertainment and recreation destination.
Today, the Randall's Island Sports Foundation is continuing and enhancing the goal and mission that Moses started.Even now, during the renovation, the island is a lovely place for a stroll along the river, fishing, camping and various sports activities. "Our goal is to make Randall's Island an outdoor backyard for sports and recreation, " says Aimee Boden, Executive Director of the Randall's Island Sports Foundation.
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|Fishermen put out their line and then sit back and take in the Manhattan scene. |
While looking bare now, soon this area will be full of blooms and shrubs.
And the work goes on.
One of the biggest efforts is to enhance the park for sports activities. In 2007 there were 35 sports fields. Today, that number continues to grow. Eventually, there will be 65 sports fields specifically designed for soccer, volleyball, and baseball. Facilities for tennis and golf are also under development.
| From this......|| To This.....|
One of the more challenging projects is to restore the wetlands. To that end, there is the Salt Marsh Restoration Project. This will re-establish a natural tidal marsh system and adjacent upland habitat totaling approximately 4 acres between Randall's and Wards Islands at the Little Hell Gate Inlet that will function as a biological and physical complement to the existing aquatic community.
| Native plants in the Salt Marsh set in place ready for the warm sunshine to wake them into action.|
|There is a nature center that provides a learning center for children to come and explore the creepy crawly things in the bog. |
The lines above the water keep the birds from invading the bog.
The work will continue and before we know it, there will be plants and flowers in bloom , fish and wildlife about while sports and recreation
fill the fields and open areas.
Thanks again to my tour guide, Iris.