By FARAZ T. TOOR
Staten Islanders can finally run indoors.
After years of planning and delays, a state-of-the-art indoor track and field facility on the island officially opened to the public Thursday, the only of its kind in the tri-state area, according to the city.
“It is so wonderful to have the words ‘state-of-the-art’ and ‘first-class’ in the same sentence as ‘Staten Island,’” Borough President James Oddo said at the opening ceremony.
Oddo, other local elected officials, and the Department of Parks and Recreation welcomed about 300 Staten Island schoolchildren, borough residents, and track and field athletes to the opening ceremony of the Ocean Breeze Track and Field Athletic Complex.
Located less than 1,000 feet away from the island’s eastern coastline, the 135,000 square-foot, $112 million facility will serve indoor track and field teams and athletes, in addition to its regular members. It also will act as a recreational complex, equipped with gym equipment.
Islanders and other New Yorkers had waited years for Ocean Breeze.
Members of Staten Island Track, a local track and field club, had advocated for such a facility for about 20 years, according to the club and Assemblyman Michael Cusick.
“Indoor track runners were running outdoors in the winter time, so clearly there was a need,” Arnold Obey, a member of Staten Island Track, said about their first discussions 20 years ago.
Local politicians joined their voices in the new millennium, as Oddo said he began to call on the city to build an indoor track and field facility Sept. 2001.
In 2007, former mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the Ocean Breeze project, the last of his PlaNYC projects, some of which attempted to address city infrastructure, but it soon faced problems.
In 2011, the city halted construction for a few months after initial concerns that the land’s pilings were too weak to support the building, according to a Staten Island Advance investigation.
A year later, Hurricane Sandy flooded some of the equipment that the Department of Design and Construction used to build the facility, leading to a four-month work stoppage. The city says it has modified the building with similar storms in mind.
Funded by PlaNYC allocations from taxpayer dollars, the Staten Island borough president’s office, and the City Council, Ocean Breeze is now ready for shoes to pound the track.
“Every summer I walked with my dad on the boardwalk [nearby], so it’s nice to see the shift from construction—the drills and everything—to this,” said Kristin Marchi, a teacher at P.S. 30 on the island.
“This is putting Staten Island on the map,” Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said. “I can’t wait to see the records broken here.”
Some Island runners tested the track once the city officially opened it.
“It was just so fun, not only competing, but just running with friends,” said Brandon Santiago, a member of the New Dorp High School track team, some members of which ran a lap on the track.
The parks department also held track and field drills for some of the more junior athletes on-hand, including agility exercises and sprints.
“I like that we can jump and then run back,” said Eleni Polyzos, a P.S. 30 first-grader.
As part of the opening ceremony, an International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) technical representative, David Katz, deemed Ocean Breeze the only IAAF-certified indoor track and field facility in the United States.
U.S. contractors build tracks according to independent standards, said Katz. The federation measured the Ocean Breeze track, however, and found that it met all technical standards for international competitions.
The city says about 700 people have registered to become Ocean Breeze members.
The track and field has already been reserved for meets almost every weekend from Dec. 5 until the middle of March. Numerous teams will hold two-hour long practices and meets during weekdays as well.
Cardio and weight rooms, a warm-up track, and fitness classes will be available to members at all times, said facility reps.