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Constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Van Cortlandt Stadium opened on September 22, 1939. New York City, under the direction of Moses and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia (1882-1947), was able to secure a great deal of WPA funding. Park construction was one of the many projects undertaken by the WPA, an unprecedented federal program initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) as a component of the New Deal. Mayor La Guardia and Parks Commissioner Moses conducted the opening ceremonies with an exhibition football game between Manhattan College and Fordham University.The NYC Parks Department press release for September 22, 1939, says:
The Department of Parks will officially open to the public at 2:30 P.M, on Friday, September 22nd, the new athletic and recreation centre in Van Cortlandt Park. The area is located between 240th and 242nd Streets on Broadway. Speakers at the ceremony will be Mayor La Guardia, Park Commissioner Moses, Borough President James J. Lyons of the Bronx, and Lt. Colonel Brehon B. Somervell, Work Projects Administrator for New York City.
This 21.5 acre area was formerly a swamp, being the course of Tibbett's Brook. It was filled by the Department of Sanitation during 1933. The present construction was started during 1937, The facility comprises a concrete stadium with a seating capacity of 3,000. There is a quarter-mile running track, three baseball diamonds, three football fields, six handball courts, sixteen hard surfaced tennis courts, four horseshoe pitching courts, children's playground with wading pool, two large paved recreation areas containing basketball courts and softball diamond.
The perimeter of the area is completely landscaped and equipped with paths. Flood lighting will permit evening use of these facilities. Band concerts and dancing will be added to activities during the summer months.