By Madina Toure
The first phase of a $5.2 million project to construct a playing field for a Gaelic football club in College Point has started and will be completed by spring.
The Shannon Gaels Gaelic Athletic Association Field of Dreams, on 132nd Street and 14th Road, will have a synthetic-turf playing field in Frank Golden Park for training and scrimmages for players 4 to 18. A groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of the project was held Nov. 30. The entire project will be completed within the next three years, according to Colin Mathers, chairman of the Field of Dreams initiative.
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Shannon Gaels association and private funds willunderwrite the first phase, which is expected to cost $1.6 million.
Construction has begun, Mathers said, noting that the contractor started putting up some of the fences and should be going in with the machinery within the next two weeks, Mathers said. The first phase was supposed to start during the summer, but construction permits were not secured until Nov. 18.
“We have over 300 children from the ages of four to 18 playing these games at Frank Golden Park and the more people out there, the more children that are seen and the more local people get involved with it as well,” Mathers said. Paraic Duffy, director-general of the GAA; Barbara Jones, consul general from Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Department; City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and Borough President Melinda Katz were at the ceremony along with state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing), state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).
“This long-awaited revamping of Frank Golden Park will be great, not just for the Shannon Gaels, but for everyone in the community that wants green space to enjoy for years to come,” Vallone said in a statement.
Gaelic football, a popular Irish sport, involves 15 players on each side who score points by advancing a round ball up the field through the opposing team’s goal posts.
For the remaining phases, Katz allocated $1.5 million; Vallone, $195,000; the City Council’s Queens Delegation, $1 million; Melissa Mark-Viverito, $100,000; Simanowitz, $500,000; and Avella, $200,000.The second phase of the project will consist of a full-sized GAA playing pitch. The third phase will include a car park and plaza area that will allow Shannon Gaels GAA to host cultural and field-day activities. The last phase will put in a high-performance floodlight system that allows for year-round use.
The second phase is anticipated to start in the summer of 2016, the third phase in the summer of 2017 and the final phase in early 2018, Mathers said.
Since 2010, Shannon Gaels GAA has had permits to play the Gaelic games at the park. The association invested private money to improve and maintain the park.
In April 2014, Shannon Gaels GAA and the city reached a 15-year maintenance agreement for use of the park. In January, Community Board 7 approved the conceptual design for the park’s upgrade.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour