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Sports

Cross Country Running

Van Cortlandt Park's Cross Country running trail has been a Mecca for the sport for 100 years. The course opened in 1913 looping throughout the park. In the past races took place on the golf course and on other trails. In the Moses era when many city highways were developed (1930s - 1950s), the cross-country trail was re-routed to accommodate three major thoroughfares that were built through Van Cortlandt Park.

The Cross Country trail bridge was added to link two divided sections of the park, and is still in use today. The park's hilly geology of Fordham Gneiss outcrops offers great challenges for runners. The steepest part, known as "The Wall," tests every runner's stamina. Starting in the flats of the Parade Ground and circling over Vault Hill, the course winds through the Northwest Woods and ends back at the Parade Ground.

Every weekend in the fall, races are held, the largest being the Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational (MCXCI), which has drawn approximately 12,000 high school participants annually from across the continent. It is not only the largest event in Van Cortlandt Park but also, according to the organizers, the largest high school cross country meet in the country.

The Cross Country Trail is not just for competitive athletes and hardcore runners. Recreational runners hit the trail year-round. The course promotes good health through exercise and enjoying the great outdoors. Local running groups such as the Van Cortlandt Track Club, New York Road Runners and other organized groups are available for recreational and competitive training and events.

Several times a year, the Conservancy meets with members of the Cross Country Committee from our Community Council to raise issues and discuss solutions for running events. The Cross Country Committee includes representatives from public, independent and Catholic high schools; colleges; and running organizations.

Many runners who competed in their youth come back to visit the trail, sometimes after decades of absence. They often marvel at the trail's improvements, and their faces glow as they remember good times and test endurance.

If you have fond memories of the trail and would like to help sustain its future, please contribute. There are many ways to help and to continue enjoying the trail. Whether you run weekly or haven't been to the park in decades, come visit us soon!

Cricket

Did you know that Van Cortlandt Park has the most cricket fields in one park in the United States?

Cricket teams are traditionally called 'clubs' and their members hail from ancestries that were at one time dominated by the British Empire. Cricket is popular among Caribbean, Australian, East Indian and Pakistani communities. Players dress in 'cricket whites,' the standard uniform for the game. Today, the ten cricket fields on the Parade Ground are officially opened with natural grass and new irrigation.

Our eleventh field is still at the Stables entrance to the park.

Van Cortlandt Golf Course

The Van Cortlandt Golf Course opened in 1895, as the first public golf course in the United States. Van Cortlandt Golf Course enjoys several other distinctions as well. In 1896, the St. Andrews Golf Club hosted the country’s first public golf tournament here. The golf house, built in 1902, has been a popular pre–and–post–game spot for nearly a century. Its visitors have included Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, and Joe Louis. The Three Stooges also made Van Cortlandt their preferred golf course. The house’s locker rooms have retained their original wooden lockers, which were in a scene from the Oliver Stone film Wall Street (1987).

Early Development

Van Cortlandt Golf Course became a reality when several prominent members of the Mosholu Golf Club in Riverdale, including T. McClure Peters, B.W. “Gus” Schwab, Moses T. “Percy” Pyne, and Cleveland H. Dodge, petitioned James A. Roosevelt, a member of the Board of Parks Commissioners, to build a golf course in Van Cortlandt Park. The popularity of the sport had been growing steadily for several decades and these local businessmen had tried unsuccessfully to find private lands within the City large enough to accommodate a new grand–scale, fully–appointed golf course.

Unlike the City’s more manicured parks, Van Cortlandt consisted of wildly sprawling grounds that felt a world apart from the urban landscape outside its borders. To golf enthusiasts, the fields, tall grasses, and colorful wildflowers of Van Cortlandt furnished the perfect spot for the golf links, which quickly earned the nickname “The Meadows.” T. McClure Peters constructed the nine–hole course north of Van Cortlandt Lake for a cost of $625. The original layout spread over today’s 1,2,3,6,7,12,13, and 14 holes. Playing through the 2,561–yard course was relatively easy for the first eight holes, each less than 200 yards. Then, golfers confronted the ninth hole, with a 700–yard fairway that crossed two stonewalls and two small brooks. The ninth hole was among the longest and most challenging hole ever created in the United States.

Success… and Challenges

In its first year, there were no set rules at the Van Cortlandt Golf Course, and it quickly became over–crowded. Local newspapers blasted the poor playing conditions, the unmanageable crowds, and a general lack of golf etiquette. As a result, the City hired Scottish Golf Architect Thomas Bendelow in 1899. Bendelow was to manage the course and oversee its expansion from a 55–acre, 9–hole course to a 120–acre, 18–hole course.

Once the general public discovered the facility, it became common for up to 700 golfers to complete the course on a typical Saturday, Sunday or holiday. By 1920, there were an estimated 5,000 golfers per week teeing off at Van Cortlandt. Golfing in the Bronx continued during the Depression and World War II. Easily accessible by both the Broadway IRT train and the Putnam Railroad, Van Cortlandt’s links were a popular spot for quick morning rounds. In the 1940s and 1950s, Bendelow’s course had to make way for the Major Deegan Expressway and the Mosholu Parkway Extension. Architect William Follet Mitchell rearranged fairways, eliminated two hillside holes, and added four new holes west of the Putnam Railroad line.

In the winter of 1961, Parks opened three public ski slopes on the back hills of the course. An estimated 5,000 people used the facility on busy winter days. Skiers had their fun for several years before winter golfers reclaimed the course.

Current Management

In the 1980s, the City of New York began to license management of its thirteen golf courses to a private company. Norman Taffet, who manages many golfing facilities throughout the city, has been operating Van Cortlandt Golf Course since 2007 and immediately renovated the course with new tees.

Van Cortlandt Stadium

Located along Broadway and West 242 Street, this stadium complex was among the development projects undertaken by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a massive economic recovery program initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and 40s following the Depression. The 3,000–seat Van Cortlandt Stadium opened in 1939 with Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses presiding over opening ceremonies that included track events and an exhibition football game between Manhattan College and Fordham University, institutions which continue to use Van Cortlandt Park for their athletic programs.

The stadium complex also holds tennis courts, handball courts, baseball diamonds, drinking fountains and bathrooms. A quarter–mile running track was reconstructed in 1998 and a synthetic turf infield was installed in 2009. The building is in need of significant restoration to make its 15,000 square feet water–tight with insulated walls, so the facility can be used for programming and office space.

Location and history

The land around Van Cortlandt Stadium, as well as the adjacent Kingsbridge Green and Southwest Playground, was originally a freshwater marsh. Tibbetts Brook, which runs south from Westchester to Van Cortlandt Lake, is one of the last remnants of the former marsh. Originally called Mosholu by an Algonquin Native American tribe that lived on the current Parade Ground site, Tibbetts Brook gets its most recent name from George Tippett, owner of land in Riverdale and Van Cortlandt Park in 1668. The freshwater wetland reached its present shape after the construction of the Van Cortlandt Golf Course in 1894, the Henry Hudson Parkway in 1936, the Van Cortlandt Stadium in 1939, and the Major Deegan Expressway in 1956.