An aerial view of the Massapequa Field of Dreams, set for its Oct. 1 grand opening.
The Village of Massapequa is gearing up for one of its biggest days in recent history.
Saturday, Oct. 1, will be the opening day for Field of Dreams, the village's 10-acre all-purpose athletic complex.
The day's festivities will begin at 10:30 a.m. and last until noon. Appearances will be made by such NFL greats as Joe Morris of the New York Giants, Marty Lyons of the New York Jets, and Long Island's own, Gary Baldinger, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Also in attendance will be members of the Long Island Rough Riders, the New York Islanders, the New York Dragons, and Long Island Lizards, plus Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and Town of Oyster Bay ßupervisor John Venditto.
In addition, up to 1,200 local children and their parents are expected to take part in a special dedication ceremony and various sports games.
The spanking new $6.5 million multisports field will host scheduled football, basketball, lacrosse and soccer home games for some 15,000 local youths.
As importantly, the field is being hailed as a big community victory for Massapequa, the culmination of two-and-a-half years of a grass-roots campaign by local residents and organizations.
In fact, the field almost wasn't built---or even considered.
Nassau County, which previously owned the property, was going to sell it off as surplus land to a commercial developer.
Local residents discovered the deal and the opposition began to take shape. The outrage started among an organization that is usually a safe haven for developers, the Massapequa Chamber of Commerce. Gary Slavin, commerce president, assembled a coalition of youth sports advocates, civic organization heads, business leaders and school officials. In April 2003, they held a "raise the roof" meeting. The chief purpose was to bring Town Supervisor Venditto around to their side.
It worked. "We didn't need more big box stores or industrial development," Slavin said. "What we needed was a place for kids to play sports near home, instead of always having to travel to their opponents' fields."
"This is great for the kids," continued Slavin, who won an MVP award playing high school football for St. John the Baptist back in 1971. "When you're playing sports, you're staying out of trouble."
"There were proposals to develop the land, but none went forward," recalled Supervisor Venditto. "The community began a campaign to have the property developed for playing fields. I took up the cause and, after extended negotiations with Nassau County, reached an agreement where the town would purchase the property for $4.7 million and take over 9.8 land miles of county road."
The town board signed off March 9 and county legislators did likewise April 26. Now a small army of contractors is finishing the work.
The Field of Dreams, as noted, includes numerous athletic facilities, plus a basketball court, two playgrounds, bathrooms, a concession stand, and parking.
However, one of them isn't a baseball field. Still, in Massapequa, the baseball players will benefit as well.
"The Little Leaguers play in nearby Grant Park and now they're getting their outfields back, which the other sports always used for practice," Slavin said. They'll have their outfields back for playing baseball again."