Since opening its doors in 1909, The Armory Track in New York City has become home to thousands of athletes each indoor season. Over 700 records have been set on our track, at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels.
After falling into disrepair over previous decades, a 1993 renovation restored the facility to its former glory. Today, more than 150,000 athletes compete at The Armory each year, and the facility hosts the historic NYRR Millrose Games. The building is also home to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame.
Like all armories, the building was originally designed for military purposes. The cavernous facility was constructed to accommodate Howitzers, Jeeps, and other heavy equipment. The military eventually moved elsewhere, and athletic events began taking place at The Armory in 1914. Many decades later, the space became utilized as a homeless shelter, where violence and disease were part of everyday life.
In 1991, Dr. Norbert Sander began the campaign that transformed The Armory into what it is today. The process included the installation of a new Mondo Super X track, along with various other improvements such as new seating, an improved sound system, and a center-hung Jumbotron. Dr. Sander founded The Armory Foundation in 1992, a nonprofit organization that operates the facility to this day.
Dr. Sander passed away in March 2017. The Armory Foundation is now headed by Co-Presidents Jonathan Schindel and Rita Finkel. Michael Frankfurt, who helped Dr. Sander with his bold vision from the very beginning, continues to serve as Chairman of the Board.
Dr. Sander’s vision for The Armory went far beyond competitions. “We wanted to build programs that focus around a premier track and field program, but extend far beyond that area. We want to motivate and stimulate students, and broaden their horizons. We have academic programs that complement their regular education with a goal to getting them into college.”
The Armory is one of the few permanent indoor track & field facilities in the region. Many indoor tracks are configured around other athletic facilities, such as basketball or tennis courts. Other tracks are only set up once a year, and are wheeled away the rest of the time. The Armory is one of the small number of venues dedicated to track, and track alone.
The Armory soon became known as “The Miracle on 168th Street” as the facility was revitalized to become known as a world-class track center, drawing athletes from all over the world. “It became the place that all the runners want to come because of the Mondo track, which gives them better times,” said Michael Frankfurt.
The Armory’s Mondo Super X 200-meter banked track sits on the third floor of the four-story building. The mezzanine on the fourth floor circles the track with nearly 3,000 seats, providing views of the track from every angle. Two long hallways on the second floor are also Mondo-surfaced, providing athletes with a dedicated warm-up space. The Armory is also the proud home of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame.
In 2010, The Armory was awarded the Millrose Games, which were officially moved uptown from Madison Square Garden in 2012. Today, Millrose is arguably the most prestigious indoor track meet in the world. Each February, the eyes of the entire track and field community are on Upper Manhattan, as Olympians, world champions, and other elite athletes compete at Millrose on our Mondo track to earn their place in history.
The Armory also hosts several high-level collegiate meets, and is the busiest facility for high school track and field in the country. Multiple meets take place each week, including New Balance Nationals Indoor, the only high school national championship for the indoor season. When meets are not taking place, the building is open for practice, serving thousands more high school, collegiate, and adult athletes.
“With almost one million miles run each year, the Armory is the busiest indoor track in the world,” said Jonathan Schindel. “Our partnership with Mondo is pivotal so that our athletes can train and compete on the best track surface available to anyone.”
In order to renovate the facility and develop and maintain the programs that The Armory is now famous for, a significant fundraising effort began in 1992. Dr. Sander’s initial efforts raised nearly $25 million through both public and private funding, and today that figure has risen to over $50 million.
The Armory Foundation has several sources of income. Individual schools and organizations such as the PSAL or CHSAA that host meets at The Armory pay a fee for each event. Grants from New York City, private foundations, and the generosity of private donors also play pivotal roles. Then there are The Armory’s sponsor organizations, most significantly New Balance and New York Road Runners. New Balance has earned naming rights for the track facility, and NYRR, which also operates the NYC Marathon, is the title sponsor of the Millrose Games.
Armory College Prep was founded by Dr. Sander in 2002, and is now led by Rita Finkel. The program benefits New York City student-athletes from underserved communities, helping them to achieve their academic potential. ACP is unscreened, accepting any and all students who sign up, the one requirement is that they train on The Armory track. The full-time educational staff works to fill in academic gaps and provide personalized test prep and college counseling. While only 72 percent of NYC high school graduates go on to attend college, ACP has placed 100 percent of its students in a four-year college program for three years in a row. Many of these students are the first in their families to go to college. In recent years, ACP has added a middle school program, helping to prepare younger students for the rigors of high school.
“We are particularly proud of our young students and their accomplishments,” said Finkel. “The work they do with Armory College Prep, along with their athletic efforts allows them to own their futures. We are dedicated to ‘Keeping Kids on Track.”