By Alex Robinson
A Gaelic football club intent on building its field of dreams in College Point is one step closer to its goal, thanks to some public funding.
Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) have allocated a combined $580,000 in funds to upgrade Frank Golden Park, where the Shannon Gaels Gaelic Football Club is planning to build its new home grounds.
“This funding will go a long way to revamp Frank Golden Park not just for the Shannon Gaels Football Club, but for everyone in the community that wants green space to enjoy for years to come,” Vallone said in a statement. “I look forward to playing an active role in shaping the revitalization of all our district’s parks.”
The money will go toward upgrading the park’s utilities, resurfacing the playing fields and installing a new 8-foot fence around the park. A 30-foot retractable ball stop fence will also be set up behind the field’s goal posts.
Of the public funds allocated, $80,000 came from Vallone’s discretionary budget and $500,000 came from Katz.
“I was very happy to join Councilman Vallone in providing capital funds to improve Frank Golden Park,” Katz said in a statement. “It is important for all Queens residents to have access to top-quality parks.”
Founded in 2002, the Shannon Gaels did not have a regular field to train on until it was allotted a patch of grass in Frank Golden Park, just south of 14th Avenue, in 2009. The club then signed a 15-year lease with the city Parks Department for 7 acres of the park in April.
The Shannon Gaels recently started a fund-raising initiative to raise money to transform those 7 acres into a new facility in four phases.
The club has now raised more than 30 percent of its $2 million goal, including the public funding allocated to the park, meaning it now has enough to start the first phase of the work.
“We’re excited. It’s a great boost to what we’re doing out there,” said Colin Mathers, one of the team’s trainers and chairman of the club’s Field of Dreams initiative. “Hopefully, it opens the gates for a lot more so that we can complete all four phases.”
Once built, the grounds will include a full-size field, an additional scrimmage field, bleachers, parking facilities, fencing and lighting. The area has also had drainage problems in the past, which club organizers are hoping to fix.
The city Parks Department estimated the whole project could cost approximately $3.8 million last year.
The club serves 600 members, mostly from Queens and half of whom are children. The Shannon Gaels currently has teams for girls and boys 6 to 18 in competitive leagues in the spring and fall.
Gaelic football, one of Ireland’s most popular sports, is played with 15 players on a side who score points by advancing a round ball up the field through the opposition’s goal posts.
The Shannon Gaels also offer opportunities to play hurling and camogie, sports of Gaelic origin.
Mathers said the club has scheduled a meeting with Parks to sit down and figure out how and when the work will start.
Club organizers have already met with Community Board 7 and Parks officials to start to apply for all the necessary approvals, and they hope construction on the first phase of the project will be underway by spring 2015.
“It’s amazing that our field of dreams is going to become a reality,” Mathers said. “We’re very thankful to the borough president and Councilman Vallone for allocating these funds.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.