Children and the occasional adult frolicking in the new spray pad at Jones Beach State Park can thank two music greats — Ron Delsener, the promoter who reimagined the amphitheater for concerts, and Dave Matthews, of the eponymous band.
Their $100,000 contribution helped bring the 1930s park into the 21st century, officials said on Tuesday.
Delsener, a native of Queens, recalled driving his friends to the Wantagh park in his mother's car.
"For kids, this was our back door." For some youngsters, the only other option was the fire escape, he recalled.
With Rose Harvey, state parks commissioner, and other officials, Delsener unveiled a plaque honoring Bama Works, Matthews' foundation, and Chip Hooper, whom Delsener called a friend and "cancer warrior." Hooper was an agent for artists, including Phish.
Storms kept Matthews from the ceremony; his evening concert was expected to go on, officials said.
After four decades of neglect, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is investing $90 million a year in parks, Harvey said. A $65 million renovation of Jones Beach is nearly done and features the new Boardwalk Cafe and modernized West Bathhouse.
Cuomo's upgrades ensure parks remain current, she said. In addition to the spray park, Jones Beach now offers cornhole or bean bag toss and traditional sports, from shuffleboard to basketball.
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"We're going to have everything for everybody," Harvey said. Cuomo, she said, aims "to restore the state park system to its glory, to restore its history, it environmental magnificence, and expand and broaden the experience" for the millions who visit.
Delsener started his concert career at the top — and stayed there. An early job with the promoter of the Beatles' legendary 1964 concert at Forest Hills Stadium was soon followed by shows with countless stars including Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra with Ella Fitzgerald, according to the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
A few years later, Delsener invented and managed the long-running $1-per-ticket concerts in Central Park that drew Bruce Springsteen, Otis Redding, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, The Who, Beach Boys, B.B. King and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, according to biographies.
In 1983, Delsener recast Jones Beach's dilapidated and money-losing amphitheater for concerts; upgrades included a $23 million addition of 5,000 seats for what is now called Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater.
"It was a pretty serious engineering job," said Delsener, who listens to opera, classical music, blues and jazz, in addition to the myriad performers featured at his shows. "I try to pass that along to the kids of today."