YONKERS, N.Y. -- Downtown Yonkers could be getting a major new addition.
The Armory Foundation is developing the Yonkers Sports and Convention Center, a 5-6,000 seat, 100,000 square foot track and field arena with a 20,000 square foot educational center for Yonkers student, along with a store and a small restaurant at 29 Wells Avenue, above the Kawasaki rail car building near the Yonkers train station.
The foundation is hoping to open the first phase of the $25 million project in spring 2018. The project recently received a $2 million grant from the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council.
Dr. Norbert Sander, a Hastings resident, runs the Armory Foundation and is behind the project. Sander won the men's title in the 1974 New York City Marathon with a time of 2:26:30.
"This will meet a great need that Yonkers has," Dr. Sander said. "These kids can learn about commitment and get help from coaches. A lot of these kids come from single-parent homes."
Sander said the goal is to use sports and education to help kids get into college. While the arena will be primarily devoted to track and field events, Sander envisions it hosting expos, college fairs, basketball tournaments and wrestling meets. Sander hopes to hold its first track meeting in Nov. 2018.
"Track doesn't pay for itself," Sander said. "We'd look for anything to help defray the cost of a track and field event.
Sander, who grew up in Yonkers, said he sees a city that is on the rise, with the convention center adding one more piece of the puzzle.
"We're putting this in the heart and soul of Yonkers," Sander said. "Yonkers is a beautiful city. This is a big deal to me."
Getting the $2 million grand was crucial to the project, as it helps open the doors for other sources of funding and will cause others to take notice, Sander said.
"It's a real liftoff for us," Sander said. "We had to get this first piece to give ourselves legitimacy."
The project also has the support of elected officials in Yonkers, Sander said. People in the community have also reached about working at the center and Sander said he plans to reach out to many grassroots groups in Yonkers.
The project still needs environmental, parking and traffic reviews and to be approved by the Yonkers Planning Board.
The Armory Foundation was formed in 1991 to help rebuild the Fort Washington Armory in Washington Heights. Sander had run track at the armory, earning a college scholarship, only to see the facility fall into disrepair.
Sander raised $40 million to restore the building and now the armory holds 105 track meets per year, with 100,000 visitors and hosts the Millrose Games. Ninety-five percent of students who enroll in the armory's educational prep center go on to a four-year college.