In culmination of a long-awaited project, Vandervert Construction will be heading up the resurfacing of Whitworth’s track in the Pine Bowl. The current track has been in use for about 19 years, said Director of Capital Projects Steve Thompson.
Planning and preparation for the project has been taking place for the past year, Thompson said.
Many parts of the track are visibly worn down to the point of black tar appearing through the red track surface. Since events cannot be hosted without NCAA approval, many events have been moved elsewhere due to the low quality of the current track, Thompson said. “People who know about track surfaces come here and say, ‘No, we’ll go somewhere else’,” Thompson said.
The multi-faceted project will not only include resurfacing the track, but will also involve relocating the shot put area, replacement of the steeplechase jump, some minor reconfigurations of the track and the football field and implementation of a new drainage system, Thompson said. While there is a drainage system currently in place, it is to be replaced with one that will better serve the purpose of keeping large amounts of water off the track.
When project planning began, the committee’s goal was also to include replacing the grass football field with synthetic turf, Thompson said. This plan was dependent on some donations that did not come through, but Thompson said that this resurfacing project will make future plans for a synthetic turf much more feasible.
While there are many pieces that will go together to make up the complete product, the most high-tech part is that of the track surface, Thompson said.
“To the casual viewer, it’s not going to be significantly different,” Thompson said. “But for the track coaches and athletes, it’s going to make a big difference.”
The athletes who use the track on a daily basis will definitely experience a noticeable change, head coach Toby Schwarz said. Coaches and athletes alike are eagerly anticipating the completion of this project for a few reasons. It will be very helpful for the sake of consistency across various tracks, Schwarz said. The team will be able to train effectively for a variety of tracks, not just their own.
“When you look at it, it doesn’t look bad,” Schwarz said. “When you get on it, it’s horrible.”
The current state of the track is far from ideal because of the injuries it causes, Schwarz said. Tracks consist of an asphalt layer covered with the track layer; layers come in a variety of thickness levels and the original was constructed very thinly. Over time, weather and use have worn the track down to the point of asphalt coming through.
Running on such a thin layer of track is hard on the athletes’ bodies. Schwarz said that the situation often causes injuries like shin splints; this project will make a significant difference.
“Hopefully we’ll keep our athletes healthier so that we can be better,” Schwarz said.
This kind of track generally has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, Schwarz said, and the current track is long overdue for a makeover.
The funds for this project are coming from some bond financing that was done for the Hixson Union Building and for the new Rec center. There was money included for maintenance, which is the category under which this project falls. This project alone will come to somewhere between $900,000 and $950,000, Thompson said.
“We’re very blessed,” Schwarz said. “We feel very thankful.”
The project will officially get underway within days of students leaving campus for the summer. Vandervert will work through the summer to complete the project by the second week in August, when the football players arrive for training.
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