2003-04-26 / Front Page

Sports Mega-Plex Set For Gateway

Sports Mega-Plex Set For Gateway


Congressman Anthony Weiner points to a map showing the areas of Gateway being improved. He made his announcement on Earth Day, at the William Fitts Ryan Visitors Center at Floyd Bennett FieldCongressman Anthony Weiner points to a map showing the areas of Gateway being improved. He made his announcement on Earth Day, at the William Fitts Ryan Visitors Center at Floyd Bennett Field

A Chelsea-Piers-like sporting center will soon be built at Floyd Bennett Field, as part of a $34 million facelift for Gateway National Park, Congressman Anthony Weiner announced on Tuesday.

The "family sports complex," now in the planning stage, is expected to be completed by 2005, Weiner said. It will feature a hockey rink and pro shop, a fitness center with weights and aerobic facilities, indoor soccer and volleyball, an all-purpose gym, and a food court and café, he said.

Aviator Sports, the New York City based concessionaire awarded the contract by the National Parks Service (NPS), will unveil more detailed information about the $15 million sports-plex early next month, according to Weiner and Gateway officials.

The plan will restore and combine two pairs of Floyd Bennett's aging hangars, numbers five, six, seven and eight, while using "box in a box" construction to contain the sport-plex inside, NPS officials said.


Congressman Weiner, left, stands outside the Ryan Center with Gateway's John Finley, and Dave Avrin.Congressman Weiner, left, stands outside the Ryan Center with Gateway's John Finley, and Dave Avrin.

According to Weiner, this project accomplishes the important objective of preserving the historic hangars while giving them new life-something Gateway Business Management Office Representative John Finley calls "adaptive re-use."

Weiner and park officials chose Earth Day, April 22, to make their announcement about the multi-million-dollar investments in Gateway. From the presentation it was clear that the funds are being distributed to several of the park's many venues, covering almost 27,000 acres in total.

The existing golf center on Flatbush Avenue is slated for nearly a half a million dollars in improvements. Plans there include a 75-tee driving range and food service. Heated tees, a clubhouse, pro-shop, and training center are some of the other niceties under consideration. Completion for this portion of the plan is expected in the spring of 2004, officials said.

Just South of the golf center is the Barren Island Marina, which has received nearly $4 million in renovations in the last three years. Gateway is looking for a concessionaire to operate the marina for the next ten years, and invest several million more dollars. Among the anticipated improvements once a deal is made, according to parks officials, are shower, restroom, and laundry facility upgrades, new docks and pilings, better navigation aides to help boats move in and out of the facility, and improved safety/security. The completion date there is 2006, officials said.


A peek inside one of the Floyd Bennett Field hangars shows they are empty and in need of repair.A peek inside one of the Floyd Bennett Field hangars shows they are empty and in need of repair.

Construction is set to begin this year at Riis Landing, with the hope that it will one day serve as the hub for ferry service linking Rockaway, and parts of Brooklyn and Queens to New York City, according to officials.

The renovation of the Riis Park bathhouse, is forecast to be completed by the spring of 2005. Officials say that the mostly par 3 golf course will receive nearly a half million dollars in renovations, and there's a possibility that the mini-golf and batting cages will be relocated there. They also said it will be operated in conjunction with the afore-mentioned golf center, and that it should be completed by 2005.

Bicycle riders, runners, and walkers might be happy to learn that progress is being made on the Rockaway Gateway Greenway, a multi-use path passing through the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. With an expected cost of nearly $1.5 million, planning has be­gun, and completion is expected for the Fall of next year, officials said.

Improvements at the wildlife refuge itself include a more than $3 million visitor center re-build, which officials say should be finished by winter, 2006. Work already underway includes a salt marsh preservation program, they said.

Other Gateway areas receiving dollars are the Frank M. Charles Memorial Park and West Hamilton Beach Park.

The congressman's announcement, seemed generally well received, but might not sit well with aviation enthusiasts who had designs on the Floyd Bennett hangars. Some wanted a museum, dedicated to the history of human flight, to be built there instead. Weiner said he heard those requests and called a museum "a bad idea then and a bad idea now." Instead, he said, there will be "extensive recreation in those [now] empty hangars." Weiner added that he expects the complex will become a "magnet" for young people from the Rockaway Peninsula, which he acknowledged is indoor-recreation-starved.

"There's a lot more left to be done...the work is incomplete but the Congressman should get an "A" [for securing the funding]," Weiner said, speaking of himself.


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