(Photo: Reuters / Ray Stubblebine)
New York Yankees closing pitcher Mariano Rivera, along with his fellow congregants from the Spanish-speaking church, Refugio de Esperanza, have agreed to fix up and buy a century-old church building in the city of New Rochelle, N.Y.
The church, which was built in 1907, reportedly once housed the largest Presbyterian church in the county of Westchester, but has been owned by the city for years and has fallen into disrepair.
Rivera's congregation will lease the building and restore it, at no cost to the city, and then buy it for a total price of $1. The Associated Press reports that the building had become such a safety risk that the city had to remove its bell tower last year. Some reports say that restoration costs could end up totaling about $3 million, but Rivera wants it nevertheless.
During a press conference Tuesday morning at New Rochelle's City Hall, Mayor Noam Bramson spoke highly of the North Avenue church facility. He described it as “a much beloved structure that's had a significant role in New Rochelle's history.”
“Today, we are here to observe and to celebrate an agreement that will bring the church back to its former luster, and with its original purpose, as a house of worship,” he said.
Bramson also spoke highly of Rivera, saying that he is greatly admired throughout the world “for his skill and grace and for his deep faith.”
Rivera, who previously lived in New Rochelle and owns a restaurant there, spoke during the conference, saying, “We have a lot of goals that we want to fulfill, but the main goal right now is to restore the church. You know, make the church the way it was before.”
“The moment that I saw the church I fell in love with the church,” he said.
Rivera also spoke, in particular, about his passion for ministering to the youth in the area. “I love the youth,” he said. “I always say that that's the future. That's our future.” Lohud.com, a news site for the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, reported that Rivera later said that his church would hold after-school programs and possibly even sponsor a youth baseball team, thus combining his two passions.
Charles Strome III, city manager for New Rochelle, said it will take several months of planning and of the church getting all the required permits in order before changes are made to the facility. According to lohud.com, he anticipates that construction on the building could begin sometime this fall.
“The game is my job, but life continues,” Rivera said. “Baseball will stop one day and I will have to step up. This is what I want to do.”