City officials and the family of a New York sports legend will gather Friday at the opening ceremony for the new Joseph Yancey Track and Field in the Bronx. The facility replaces an older park of the same name that was closed as part of the construction of the new Yankee Stadium.
Joseph Yancey Track and Field is a $35 million facility that, according to a press release sent out today by the Parks Department, includes, “a 400-meter competition-quality track, eight handball courts, four basketball courts, a soccer/football field with grandstand seating, landscaping, adult fitness equipment, passive recreational space, a comfort station and shaded picnic tables.” The field was built on the rooftop of the Ruppert Plaza Parking Garage in Macombs Dam Park adjacent to the new Yankee Stadium.
Yancey Field is part of the $195 million Yankee Park Replacement Program, the effort to replace the 22 acres of parkland eliminated during the demolition of Yankee Stadium. Delays in the program have caused controversy among area residents and activists. In a telephone interview, Jose Rodriguez, district manager for Community Board 4, said: “There’s definitely been some delay in the construction of the new parks. Folks are frustrated.” Despite these delays, Rodriguez said, “At the end of the day, I think folks will be happy, we’re extremely happy here at Community Board 4. … It will be the best competition track and field in the city.”
This afternoon, a spokesperson for the Parks Department, which oversees the Yankee Park Replacement Program along with the Empire Development Corp., said: “We’re happy to open the park, we’re looking forward to the ribbon cutting tomorrow. … And we look forward to bringing the rest of the parks online.” The elements of the park replacement program that have yet to be completed are two lots on River Avenue slated to contain a skate park and children’s play area, and the three baseball fields that will be built on the grounds of old Yankee Stadium. A parks department spokesperson said construction on the River Avenue parks will be completed in June. Work on the new ballfields, which will collectively be called Heritage Field, is scheduled to begin once demolition on the old stadium site is finished in June. Heritage Field is due to be completed by fall 2011.
The ceremony Friday will be attended by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and family members of the field’s namesake, Joseph James Yancey Jr. Yancey co-founded America’s first interracial track team, the Pioneers Track and Field Club, in 1936. Yancey’s granddaughter, Yvonne Floyd-Mayers, said the Pioneers Club often practiced in Macombs Dam Park. Many Olympic athletes got their start with Yancey’s team. In addition to his work with the Pioneers Club, Yancey also coached the Jamaican Olympic team and served with the “Harlem Hellfighters” 369th Infantry Regiment. In 1984, Yancey was inducted to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. He died in 1991.
Yancey never lived to see the park that bears his name, but Floyd-Mayers said she thinks “he would be thrilled” with it. Floyd-Mayers said three of Yancey’s six grandchildren and two of his great grandchildren will be at Friday’s ceremony along with other members of his extended family.