The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

April 15, 2011


Fields ‘worth the wait,’ say officials at groundbreaking

By JOHN ROCHE
JOHN ROCHE PHOTO

Sandra Rose, the mother of philanthropist Adam Rose, was presented with a bouquet of flowers at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new AP Farm Athletic Fields.

 

John Jay High School students, faculty, staff, Katonah-Lewisboro administrators and community members joined local resident Adam Rose and his partner, Peter McQuillan, last Friday to break ground for two new athletic fields to be built on an 8.7-acre parcel across from the school donated by the couple.

The groundbreaking ceremony on April 8 formally kicks off construction of the AP Farm Athletic Fields, which will include a multipurpose artificial turf field and a natural grass softball field across from the John Jay campus on Route 121.

“It took quite a few years for us to get here today, but it’s certainly worth the wait,” said Michael Jumper, interim superintendent for the Katonah-Lewisboro School District, who pointed out that the district first expressed interest in creating athletic fields on the site more than a decade ago.“

Several speakers at the ceremony touched on the fact that the groundbreaking follows a long, bumpy and often contentious road to bring the new athletic fields to fruition. Mr. Jumper pointed out that the district at one point entered into a contract for purchasing the property that included a large nonrefundable deposit. At that time, the community voted against spending the money to purchase the eight acres, and the district lost the significant deposit. “But along came Adam Rose and Peter McQuillan, who saw a wrong and corrected it,” Mr. Jumper said. “And now, because of lots of hard work, community support and your tremendous generosity, our dream has become a reality.”

In recent years, funding new athletic fields and even accepting the $1 million gift of the property along with $500,000 for preliminary designs and required environmental reviews from Mr. Rose and Mr. McQuillan grew into a divisive issue within the district.   

Proponents for developing the property pointed out that the number of athletic fields in the district, which serves about 4,000 students in six schools, has not changed since 1960. During that time, enrollment in the district has quadrupled and opportunities for women’s sports have expanded, in part prompted by federal Title IX legislation from the 1970s. Some members of the school board, the district and the John Jay community also pointed out that the district’s playing fields have also fallen into disrepair, with most of them falling below competition standards.

Mr. Rose and Mr. McQuillan, who purchased AP Farm in 2007 solely to donate the land for the creation of athletic fields, initially offered the property to the school district, then to the Town of Lewisboro after the district’s first plans to build two new fields faltered. Two years ago, the Lewisboro Town Board unanimously rejected an offer of $2.6 million from Westchester County to build athletic fields through the county’s Legacy program.

Once Lewisboro rejected the donation, school board members contacted Mr. Rose and his partner and reached yet another agreement regarding the donation of AP Farm.

But some district residents voiced opposition to building new athletic fields altogether in a struggling economy, and others called on Katonah-Lewisboro administrators and school board members to use the funds for different purposes. Members of the Sunshine Group, a coalition of district residents pushing for academic improvements and the elimination of what they view as wasteful spending in the district, for instance, urged taxpayers to reject a referendum in March 2009 to transfer $3.15 million of existing funds from a repair reserve account to a capital fund that could be used for the creation of athletic fields and other physical improvements.

Voters passed that referendum, as well as another that specified how the transferred funds could be spent.

But with ground broken on the site, the new athletic fields are scheduled to be completed by September.

Mr. Rose said he and Mr. McQuillan view their donation as an investment in John Jay students, the community and the future, but acknowledged that their gift was only part of the equation. “It’s very nice of you to thank us, but Peter and I want to turn that back on you, the community, for voting so overwhelmingly to do this,” Mr. Rose said. “It’s incredibly exciting. We live right down the road, so we’ll drive by this often and look out the window at the teams playing and other people enjoying the fields.”

School board members Warren Schloat, Eve Hundt and Janet Harckham were also on hand for the ceremony, and thanked Mr. McQuillan and Mr. Rose for their generosity and vision.

“We are extremely grateful to both of you,” said Ms. Harckham, who presented the couple with a soccer ball in recognition of their donation. “The truth is, you guys exemplify everything that team sports teach children. You kept your eyes on the goal, worked together. If the first way didn’t work, you tried something else. You were the captains that brought everyone together as a team, and the entire community won.”

Ms. Hundt echoed Mr. Jumper’s assessment that the new fields will be worth the lengthy wait. “Given that it’s been such a long and at times difficult and disappointing process, I’m so pleased that these fields are finally about to become a reality,” Ms. Hundt said. “After seeing Adam and Peter break ground and then pass the shovels to some of our students to do the same, I can’t wait to see John Jay kids enjoying these fields in the coming school year and for a long, long time to come.”

The ceremony also included musical performances by two of John Jay’s musical groups, the Rolling Tones and the Noteables, remarks by Christian McCarthy, the district’s director of health, physical education, athletics and wellness, and the presentation of a floral bouquet to Mr. Rose’s mother, Sandra.

Two students who spoke publicly on behalf of their classmates also thanked Mr. Rose and Mr. McQuillan for donating the property and an additional half-million dollars.

“Our sports teams as well as our physical education classes will now have the space to grow and improve,” said Katie Flynn, a member of the John Jay women’s lacrosse team. “These fields will also positively impact the middle school by freeing up the room to hold their physical education classes at the practice field.”

Another student, Jake Weil, said the AP Farm Athletic Fields would benefit the community by accommodating sports clinics and camps, as well as the teams and phys ed programs at John Jay. “This will be the site of many exciting games this year, both won and lost, and for years to come, every John Jay student and member of our community will enjoy this beautiful place,” said Jake, who plays both varsity football and lacrosse for the John Jay Indians.   

Mr. Jumper, who also serves as the district’s assistant superintendent for business, agreed that the couple’s donation creates a legacy at John Jay that both current students and future generations will benefit from. “Your vision, commitment, dedication and generosity to the Katonah-Lewisboro School District and community will be remembered for generations to come, and we are forever grateful,” Mr. Jumper said.


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