New York Relays
April 20-21, 2007
Icahn Stadium, Randall's Island, New York City

Donna on the Side

by Donna Dye

Part 1 - the scene
Part 2 - the meet
Part 3 - the wave
Part 4 - relays
Part 5 - distance
Part 6 - field events

the scene
revitalized Randall's Island with sparkling new Icahn Stadium

The New York Relays are sponsored by the Randall's Island Sports Foundation and held at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island in New York City. This is the third year in recent history for the Relays. The first New York Relays was founded in the 1966 by Joe Fox of Fordham Prep and several other Catholic High School Association coaches. The first meet was held in Downing Stadium on Randall's Island the same weekend as the 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 crumbling facilities at Downing Stadium, the New York Relays were discontinued in 1984.

The Randall's Island Sports 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 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 provide a broad spectrum of activities for children and young adults.

Icahn Stadium replaces Downing Stadium which was built on the same site in 1936 as part of a larger New York City Parks project which included the construction of the Triborough Bridge. The new stadium made history as host of the 1936 U.S. Olympic Trials, at which Jesse Owens qualified for the Berlin Olympics where he upstaged Hitler's athletes. Downing Stadium was torn down in 2002 to make way for the Icahn Stadium.

(Sources: Randall's Island Sports Foundation, Wikipedia, NY Armory and IAAF web sites)

The interior of Icahn Stadium which includes modern locker rooms, fitness, exercise and meeting rooms. It also includes a dance studio complete with bars and mirrors for youth activities.

Transforming Randall's Island

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. A footbridge connection to Manhattan (pictured at left) is located on the south of the island and says "Footbridge to Ward's Island."

These islands were purchased from a local 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. During 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 on the island. It was Robert Moses, New York City Parks Commissioner during 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 started in the 1930's.

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.
A place to stop and enjoy the posies.
A lovely view of Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Looking back into Manhattan

There are 35 sports fields now and by the end of renovation, there will be 65.  
Playground facilities
Soccer fields are under the highway overhead.
Families and singles alike camp to enjoy
the scene and facilities.
The Footbridge with Manhattan in the background
Fishermen find the best catch at this end of the island.
My thanks to Iris for the guided tour of Randall and Ward Islands.


Part 1 - the scene
Part 2 - the meet
Part 3 - the wave
Part 4 - relays
Part 5 - distance
Part 6 - field events

New York Relays home page