Take The Field Program Scores a Touchdown
By Elio Velez
When The Far Rockaway Seahorses Football team took the field for their first game of the year, a new addition for the team was prominently mentioned. On that Saturday, Far Rock stepped onto their rebuilt football field and won their first game 22-0. What was interesting about the new field is the story that occurred just before the field was reopened
In January of 1999, the New York Times published articles that reported on the poor state of public school athletics. They stated on how the deterioration of funding for sports resulted in poor facilities for the student-athletes to play on. In Far Rockaway High School’s case, the home field was just a dirt field with hazardous conditions such as holes, glass and rocks. It created an unsafe environment for the athletes and the story was just the same in many other high schools throughout the city. For South Bronx High School and George Washington High School in Manhattan, they played on Astroturf fields that were deemed condemned and unsafe for playing.
What was troubling was that of the 180 public high schools, only 60 of those schools have home fields. More troubling was that of those 60 fields, 50 were deemed to be in a state of disrepair. This led to people from the private sector to come together with a program to fix these fields. Robert Tisch, co-owner of the NFL New York Giants along with Richard Kahan and Tony Kiser came together to push for private sector help in rebuilding the fields. They called the non- profit program, Take the Field Inc and quickly gained support from the city and the schools.
On July of 2000, Mayor Giuliani introduced the Take the Field program and pledged $9 million to help in the effort. Take the Field would use their own design and construction team. For every $1 that Take the Field would raise, the city would match it with $3. With $16 million raised, Take the Field would start with 7 schools. One of the first announced was Far Rockaway, which was due to the disrepair of the field. The renovation of the Football and Track and Field cost $3 million dollars and was completed in only 5 months.
The success of the new Far Rockaway field led Take the Field to announce a new expansion of the program, which included Broad Channel. In November, the field will be completed with a completely new baseball/softball field, football field, track and basketball/volleyball courts. The school and the community would use the field.
The donations from the private sector included such contributors from Verizon, Merrill Lynch, the New York Yankees and many others. The contributions though must continue for the program to continue. The construction of these fields gives the student-athletes a chance to compete in a state of the art field. And with this program, one of the better chances for high school athletics can continue to improve. For information on how a person, company, or foundation can help to contribute, call Richard Kahan at 212- 521-2232.