Elected officials on June 16 joined Queens College staff and students for a groundbreaking ceremony for the college’s soccer field and track renovation project. The $9.3 million modernization of the outdoor sports facility began in January 2021 and is projected to be completed in early 2022.
The project is funded with support from New York state and New York City through the efforts of Queens College Director of Athletics Robert Twible, Queens College Student Association President Zaire Couloute, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Queens College President Frank H. Wu, Councilmen Francisco Moya and James Gennaro, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, Special Counsel for Ratepayer Protection Rory Lancman, CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez and Queens College student-athlete Shannon Gibbons.
Queens College Knights defender Brian Gray was “extremely excited” about the groundbreaking.
“This turf field will definitely be a great addition to the team and the school for sure,” he said. “We love passing the ball around, so having a turf field, you know, a consistent field, will definitely help us in our game a lot, for sure.”
Knights midfielder Leo Pinto shared that playing on the old field had been tough, but the team has tried to make the best out of it.
“I’m so excited. I just can’t wait to get on the field with new teammates and a new atmosphere,” the rising junior said.
Queens College President Frank H. Wu, who moderated the event, acknowledged that the past year was filled with challenges, especially for the student-athletes, who were eager to get back to working out and competing.
He called the groundbreaking, which happened a day after Governor Cuomo lifted most COVID-19 restrictions throughout the state, a “new beginning, filled with hope and anticipation.”
“Soccer is the world’s sport, and we are in the ‘World’s Borough,'” Wu said, adding that the new soccer field and track would make the student-athletes “feel like professionals when they set foot on a field of this quality.”
CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez stressed that the investment in the new pitch and track was also an investment in the community because the college hosts NYC public and Catholic diocese school championships and Special Olympics events.
“Every dollar, every capital dollar that you invest in CUNY has that incredible multiplying effect,” Rodríguez said.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said that the ribbon-cutting ceremony was not only about the new soccer field or track, but also about providing students with first-class sports amenities.
“We don’t play second fiddle to any other boroughs. In Queens County, we want every CUNY campus to have state-of-the-art everything,” Richards said. “And it’s one of the reasons we announced $4.5 million for CUNY institutions across the borough a few weeks ago, and that’s just the beginning of what we’re gonna do.”
Councilman Fransisco Moya shared with the crowd his love for soccer and said the lack of adequate fields in Queens prompted him to secure funding for the renovation.
Moya said that soccer is “the one commonality that brings people together.”
“This is really going to be the way to get people back into some sense of normalcy, but in a way that the field in the conditions won’t hurt its athletes, and it will be open to everyone,” he added.
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, the first woman to chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education, proudly shared that the state provided $100 million to CUNY and $1 million to address mental health issues.
“Our original Senate request was $4 million because we recognize that these times are difficult and that everybody has to work together, including the administration and the faculty and the legislators, whether they be city, state or federal,” Stavisky said.
Queens College Director of Athletics Robert Twible proudly announced that Queens College student-athletes had a GPA of over 3.3 and that three of the college’s athletic teams had qualified for conference playoffs, with two moving on to the NCAA tournament.
For Twible, the ceremony was bigger than the soccer field or a new track.
“It brings us hope, highlights our ability to work together through these challenging times for the sake of our students and our community,” he said.
He pointed out that the improvements would benefit not only the soccer and track teams but also the school’s NCAA Division II athletes, who use the facility for games, conditioning and sport-specific training.
“It will also help us with our larger Queens community. Athletics runs a summer camp for over 30 years with thousands of children playing and learning sports on these fields,” Twible said.
Queens College senior soccer player and former “American Idol” contestant Shannon Gibbons shared that the less-than-stellar conditions of the soccer field sometimes played to the team’s advantage.
Gibbons, who called the new soccer field “a blessing,” joked about the old pitch, saying, “There’s a lot of divots in the field and a lot of dirt. Sometimes teams got in here and really didn’t know how to handle it, but we sure did.”