The field will be used for the Irish club’s sporting activities, which include Gaelic football, hurling and camogie.
The project received about $1.5 million in private funds to create a synthetic turf field for the youth leagues, according to Sean Price, chairman of Shannon Gaels GAA. That is the first of four phases to create a state-of-the-art facility.
“It’s a huge day for Shannon Gaels, it’s a huge day for New York GAA, but it’s also a huge day for GAA headquarters at home because they have invested in us,” Price said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “They see the future in the games and the culture and promoting Irish-ness.”
The rest of the project involves building a turf field for adults, seating area, parking lot and lights for the facility. The total project cost is estimated at $5.2 million, and numerous elected officials have allocated money to complete its construction.
Colin Mathers, chair of the club’s Field Committee, calls the Shannon Gaels’ new eight-acre home the “Field of Dreams.” He said they launched the campaign to build the field 26 months ago.
“Phase One is going to be an astro-turf field. It started this morning at 8 o’clock,” Mathers said. “After that, the pressure’s on to start Phase Two. That’s where our good colleagues from the borough and the city are going to help us to make sure that that happens.”
Mathers thanked the many different offices that contributed money to make the the field a reality, including Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs.
“It’s not just a coming together of both sides of the Atlantic, but also a coming together here in Queens,” he said.
Borough President Melinda Katz, whose office allocated almost $1.5 million for the project, said what makes Queens a “borough of neighborhoods” is that people from all over the world bring their families here.
“It goes to show that other countries are making their investments here in Queens,” Katz said. “We are very proud of the fact that many have chosen to make Queens their home.” She added that she hopes the borough’s diverse population will also be interested in Gaelic football.
Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz allocated $500,000 in state funds and State Senator Tony Avella added $200,000 to the project.
“I can’t do as well as my colleague in the Assembly, I only got $200,000,” Avella joked. “But as long as we all chip into the pot, that’s what’s important.”
Avella added that this field would be an asset to not just the Irish community, but everyone in Queens.
Council members Paul Vallone, who gave $200,000, and Elizabeth Crowley, part of the City Council’s Irish delegation, also attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
Paraic Duffy, the director general of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland, called the it a “fantastic project.” He praised the community and the elected officials who allocated money for the facility.
“This is an example of government at its very best, where politicians see the value in investing in the community,” Duffy said.
Duffy and his wife, Vera Duffy, were the guests of honor at the Shannon Gaels’ 13th annual Dinner Dance on Saturday night. More than 400 community members attended the event, which served as both a fundraiser and an end-of-the-year celebration.
The Shannon Gaels club was founded in April 2002. It currently has about 500 members, 23 teams and serves 250 kids, according to Price.