BROOKLYN, N.Y. — "A big day for our Athletic Department today," exclaimed Director of Athletics and Recreation James Lally in his opening remarks to the large contingent of students, faculty and staff a ribbon cutting ceremony last week to celebrate the grand opening of a new turf athletic facility inside St. Angela Hall.
The facility — outfitted for indoor soccer, baseball and softball practice, among other sports — was converted from a former basement gym that had been basically dormant since the College re-acquired St. Angela Hall in 2001. (The College originated in St. Angela Hall in 1916 and was housed there during its first two years of existence before moving to Clinton Avenue.)
Flanked by student-athletes from the baseball, softball, and men's and women's soccer teams, Lally said the facility will go a long way toward keeping the Bears competitive in the Skyline Conference and within the region. He thanked St. Joseph's President Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D., Chief Financial Officer John Roth, and Vice President for Athletics and Campus Services Shantey Hill for supporting the athletic department's vision toward ensuring the College's physical space best meets the needs of its students and the community.
"The new space is another sign of the commitment to student-athletes that the College is investing in athletics," commented Head Women's Soccer Coach Gary Lawson. "The turf is going to allow our soccer program to continue to practice conveniently on campus and help our student-athletes reach their full potential."
Dr. Boomgaarden reaffirmed the role athletics plays in the overall development of the student.
"It gives you the experience of a real-world opportunity to grow and develop your skills as leaders," he said. "This facility is a part of a fabric of athletics at our College that is so near and dear to my heart."
Featuring next-generation artificial turf, retractable batting cages and padded walls, the facility was a nearly year-long project that involved a complete overhaul of the 2,000-square-foot space.
Previously, teams competing in outdoor sports would have to travel upwards of 30 minutes to find practice space. During the winter crossover season — when the basketball and men's volleyball seasons overlap with preseason for baseball and softball — and it was too cold to practice outside, Hill Center gym availability times are limited. Some teams had no option other than to practice very early or very late.
"The new turf facility is an absolute game changer," said Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Vice President Victoria Mahoney, a senior pitcher on the softball team. "It gives us the opportunity to better use our practice time as well as have a small fraction of the field here on campus. We now have a space to call our own which will be appreciated for years to come."
For the baseball and softball teams, having a retractable batting cage in the new facility cuts down the setup time previously needed to set up a cage in the gym. It also opens more opportunities for individual practice in the cages, just when options for public batting cages nearby in Brooklyn and Queens are decreasing.
The new facility is also available for rent by groups of all ages for training and exercise, expanding St. Joseph's connection with the local community. The campus has already secured arrangements with several local non-profit youth athletic groups and looks forward to engaging new partners.
"Student-athletes continuously look for time, space and opportunities to develop their skills to compete at the highest level," Lally said. "I am proud that St. Joseph's College supports this dedication, and we are excited to witness continued growth of our teams and department through maximizing what this space has to offer."