By Marc Raimondi
The Taffner Field House, a new two-story, 38,000-square-foot practice facility being built adjacent to Carnesecca Arena and overlooking Union Turnpike, is set to open in time for the original target date of September. The construction, which started last fall, is virtually complete in the exterior and the university plans to have it open in time for when classes begin.The structure is expected to include four full-size basketball courts (two for athletics and two for student recreation), classrooms and study space for athletes, audio-visual rooms for athletic teams, locker rooms and new offices for men's and women's basketball, and sports medicine and weight training facilities.”(The primary function of the new facility will be) for men's and women's basketball,” men's basketball coach Norm Roberts said. “But half of it will be for recreation and the student body.”The $12 million facility is named for the family of Donald and Eleanor Taffner, an alumnus and member of the board of trustees, respectively. The new state-of-the-art practice facility, which is comparable to those found in several Big East schools, is expected to greatly aid coaches in recruiting, especially considering St. John's does not have a large, scenic campus.”I think St. John's is really moving in the right direction,” Roberts said, listing Belson Stadium (soccer), the Ballpark at St. John's (baseball) and Red Storm Field (softball) as “beautiful” facilities. “There's so much growth on campus….There's a lot of renovation going on.”Another change planned by Athletic Director Chris Monasch is the refurbishment of Carnesecca Arena, one of the older buildings on the Jamaica campus. There is a small renovation planned for the building this summer that would include a 6,400-square-foot health center for student-athletes, as well as audio-visual rooms for sports teams.But in addition to those changes, there are other, more major renovations planned for the building once called Alumni Hall.”They're still in the planning stages,” Roberts said. “Chris Monasch definitely wants to do some things.”Added Roberts: “I think it is something that's needed. It's something that school has wanted to do for quite some time.”Roberts mentioned that a committee would probably be formed to finalize what the new renovations will be, but said the school is in no rush.”It's all about timing,” Roberts said, citing the current construction of the Taffner Field House. “(Carnesecca Arena) is a facility that's used quite a bit. If you're going to renovate, it's not going to be able to be used.” Reach contributing writer Marc Raimondi by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.