The College of Saint Rose and the city are partnering to transform a worn-out city park into a $4.5 million sports complex that will be used as the home field for the college and by community sports teams.
The College of Saint Rose received a $1 million “challenge gift” from a philanthropist to be used to update Hoffman Park near Interstate 787 with athletic fields, lights and parking.
The gift from Joseph J. Plumeri II, chairman and CEO of Willis Group Holdings Ltd., a global insurance brokerage firm, and owner of the Trenton Thunder, the New York Yankees’ Class AA affiliate in the Eastern League, was announced on Thursday by college and city officials.
Plumeri, who grew up in Trenton, N.J ., said he fell in love with Albany because it reminds him of Trenton and he fell in love with the College of Saint Rose, which he called a “little college that dreams.”
Fundraising for the baseball field began at the Saint Rose May 2006 commencement when Plumeri gave the address and announced he would donate $100,000 to spur development of a new baseball field to be named in honor of late Saint Rose baseball coach and Albany High School teacher Bob Bellizzi.
That amount grew, and on Thursday, Plumeri said, “I believe we should build monuments to the things we believe in and this is a fantastic opportunity to build one celebrating the dreams and potential of Albany’s youth.”
The $4.5 million project will develop and improve Hoffman Park, which is bounded by McCarty and Frisbie avenues.
The college will develop new baseball and softball fields, a multi-purpose field for soccer and lacrosse, a natural turf practice soccer field and parking.
It will be named the Joseph J. Plumeri Sports Complex. Saint Rose will phase construction of the athletic fields beginning with the baseball fields in 2009.
The gift from Plumeri must be matched by money raised by the college, and college president Mark Sullivan said Thursday such efforts are already under way, though he wouldn’t say how much has been raised already.
Sullivan said the College of Saint Rose doesn’t have any land to develop athletic fields and currently rents fields for about $75,000 a year.
He said the project will turn Hoffman Park into a jewel for the city.
“This is a revitalization of the neighborhood and fulfills a 40-year dream to have a home field for Saint Rose,” he said.
A 30-year lease was approved by the Albany Common Council in 2007, and the city will continue to hold title to the park land and will own all of the improvements made by Saint Rose.
The city and college will work together on a shared use plan so the fields would also be available to the community for summer recreational leagues, high school games, charity games and summer sports camps when Saint Rose teams and programs are not using it.
When it’s complete, the complex will meet all NCAA specifications and will become the home of Golden Knights baseball, softball and soccer teams and several of Saint Rose’s recreational and intramural sports programs.
The park is located where Interstate 787 ends at Route 9W.
More from The Daily Gazette: