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Flashback: 1984

Pequa Kiwanians help save Torch Tower

When the late Karl Kramps, 1984 president of the Kiwanis Club of the Massapequas, heard from some of his friends in the Nassau County Parks Department that the proposed 22 foot tall, Olymic-style stainless steel Torch Tower for the new Mitchell Park sports complex was going to be scrapped, he immediately went into action.

The sports complex was undergoing reconstruction to accommodate the International Games for the Disabled, and the Torch Tower was to be part of the design.

Kramps called a special Board of Directors meeting to discuss the situation. He explained that even though the International Games had received thousands of dollars in contributions, they were still short of their projected $2.8 million that was needed for the two weeks of competition, which was scheduled to begin on June 16, 1984. He reminded board members present at the Massapequa Kiwanis Club has stepped in and gotten involved with many projects over the years that has saved the community thousands of dollars, such as the Berner High School bridge, the wheel chair ramp for the handicapped and elderly at the Brady Park Community Center and the 40 x 60 concrete block storage building at Our Lady of Lourdes church on Carmen Road, as well as many others.

Following a brief discussion, it was decided by the Board of Directors that the club would take on the project of building the poured concrete pyramid-shaped base for the Torch Tower at the Mitchell Field Sports Complex.

 Kramps, the club president, appointed past president Dom DiFranco to chair the project, assisted by past presidents Mike Beato and John H. Meyer. The next step was to meet and coordinate the project with the other trades involved – Conservation Gas Company, NAB Construction (fabricators of the Torch Tower) and Angelo Francis Corva & Associates, the project designers.

Shortly after the meeting, Kiwanis Members began their new hands-on project by digging the trenches for the concrete pier footings, and the anchor bolts, along with building the plywood forms for the base. Then the hard task of pouring 25 yards of concrete, placing the heavy anchor bolts according to the blueprints, vibrating the concrete to prevent honeycomb imperfections and the hand trowel finishing touches.

After many months of reconstruction at the original old sports field, the new Sports Complex was ready to host the 1,800 athletes and their 700 aides from 54 countries. During that period of time, there were 22 events of competition at the new, world-class complex and nearby facilities. The athletes were housed in dorms at Hofstra University.

It was truly a team effort for Nassau County to host such a huge event. Sponsors included Kodak, Armour Meats, Avon Corp, Lumex Corp, Newsday, Olsten, New York Telephone Company, AT&T and Villa Banfi Winery to name a few. Long Island McDonald’s restaurants used paper tray liners to advertise the games for a month. I can recall the former Nassau County Executive Francis T. Purcell saying that the June games event would be a challenge to the professionalism and dedication of the Nassau County Police Department.

Opening Day ceremonies were held on Sunday, June 17, 1984 and presented with all the panoply and brilliance of the World Games. There was a parade of all the athletes around the field, which included bands with flags galore, the traditional lighting of the torch and the solemn oath taken by the participants. Governor and Mrs. Mario Cuomo were the Grand Marshals of the festivities.

Kiwanis projects like the Torch Tower have all been made possible from the generous community support of the club’s annual golf outing and other fundraisers over its 64 years in the Massapequas. Let the games begin.