“A big day for our athletic department today,” exclaimed SJC Brooklyn Director of Athletics and Recreation James Lally in his opening remarks to the large contingent of students, faculty and staff a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate its grand opening of a new turf athletic facility inside St. Angela Hall.
The facility — outfitted for indoor soccer, baseball and softball practice — was converted from a former basement gym that had been basically dormant since the College re-acquired St. Angela Hall in 2001.
Flanked by student-athletes from several campus teams, Lally said 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,” women’s soccer coach Gary Lawson said. “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.”
“Fabric of Athletics”
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 about 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 is 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.
New Turf is a “Game Changer”
“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 time previously needed to set up a cage in the gym. It also opens more opportunities for individual practice in the cages. This, as options for public batting cages nearby in Brooklyn and Queens continue to dwindle.
The new facility is 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. We’re excited to witness continued growth of our teams and department through maximizing what this space has to offer.”