A rendering of a renovated volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball facility at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City — Courtesy: Saint Peter’s University
By Joshua Burd
An arena and recreational center at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City is in line for a makeover, thanks to a gift from one of its most distinguished alumni.
The school announced Wednesday that Thomas P. Mac Mahon, the former chairman and CEO of LabCorp, has committed a $5 million lead gift to launch the phased renovation of The Victor R. Yanitelli, S.J. Recreational Life Center at 870 Montgomery St. The project will ultimately transform the historic facility while enhancing the experience for current and future students and the university’s Division I student-athletes, along with alumni, fans and community members.
The university also expects the renovation to have a major impact on recruitment, local engagement, support for athletics and institutional pride.
“This transformative upgrade to our shared volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball facility will provide our teams with the infrastructure they need to continue striving for athletics excellence within the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, while also providing a quality space for all of our students to participate in recreational gym activities,” said Rachelle Paul, director of athletics at Saint Peter’s.
Mac Mahon’s gift will specifically help to support the first phase of the renovation, which includes the creation of a modern basketball and volleyball arena, according to a news release. The facility will feature amenities for students and guests, including new retractable bleachers with an allotment of chair-back seating, a full replacement of the hardwood court surface, updated branding and signage, a reimagined entryway to the facility, enhanced lighting and new video scoreboards.
The overall project, which will be funded by restricted gifts, will also support the creation of a hall of fame to celebrate the legacy of Peacock athletics. Construction is slated to begin this summer.
“Tom has already made an indelible impact on the university through his extraordinary philanthropy in 2012, enabling us to break ground on the Mac Mahon Student Center,” said Eugene J. Cornacchia, president of Saint Peter’s University. “We are humbled by his continued belief in and support of Saint Peter’s. It is fitting that his legacy will now grow on the West Campus where he made his mark as a basketball player and member of the ‘Run Baby, Run’ team that defeated Duke in the NIT quarter finals more than 50 years ago.”
In celebration of the school’s basketball legacy, the university noted that Mac Mahon will honor his former 1967-68 men’s basketball teammates and name the transformed space the “Run Baby Run Arena.”
“My relationship with Saint Peter’s has been one sided in that it has done more for me than I could have ever imagined,” Mac Mahon said. “The foundation of my life was built on the streets of Jersey City, at the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Montgomery Street. This project has been a longtime dream of mine and I am thrilled that it will soon come to fruition. I am also delighted that this gift will pay tribute to my teammates, celebrate our time together at Saint Peter’s and create a lasting legacy of basketball in the late 1960s.”
Mac Mahon, who chaired the university’s board of trustees from 2012 to 2018, was LabCorp’s chairman and CEO from 1997 to 2006 and a director from 1996 to 2013.
Short-term priorities beyond the arena project include the swimming pool, locker rooms and other areas, the news release said. The university touted other campus revitalization projects such as the construction of a new residence hall, physical and technological enhancements to the Frank J. Guarini School of Business and the addition of a Digital Research Commons in the Theresa and Edward O’Toole Library.
“While our gatherings and in-person interactions are currently limited due to coronavirus, COVID-19, we know that our community will be together again in the future,” said Leah Leto, vice president for advancement and external affairs at Saint Peter’s University. “Capital investments are critical to creating a vibrant campus experience and to our future growth. We are incredibly grateful to all donors who have contributed to the RLC transformation thus far and we hope that Tom’s generosity will inspire future gifts to help us see our longer-term vision come to fruition.”