Track & Field Facilities for Diverse Users

Since the first “foot race” of the ancient Olympic Games, the sport of track and field has evolved into a core component of high school, collegiate, amateur and professional athletic programs around the world. America just experienced the excitement of the 2016 Olympic Games where we saw winners from our nation in track and field.

Track and field encompasses 25 athletic events, which makes designing and equipping facilities for this particular sport a marathon rather than a sprint. Careful consideration of several factors is essential to the planning process, including location, infield and multiple-event functions, as well as selection of surfaces and equipment.


Safety First

At Spring Arbor University the director of cross country & track and field has focused on the safety of athletes as his number one priority. Creating top-notch facilities with attention to detail that serves all track and field athletes is another important factor. The quality of the university’s new and improved track training facility will ensure greater safety with less impact injuries and at the same time provide a beautiful and well-maintained field that will enhance our brand and pride of ownership thereby improving recruiting opportunities.

The current track is nearly 30 years old and has served us well beyond the expected life of 20 years. The university has worked diligently to maintain the facility, but it is not only unattractive to the eye, worse — it is unsafe for runners and other athletes. Cracks have been repaired on top of old repairs and still, as this picture shows, the grass grows through wide cracks again.

Our existing track surface is composed of shredded rubber on top of asphalt. But in many places the asphalt is showing through giving no cushion to the athletes — think of the rubber case around your iPhone — the rubber surface left on top of the asphalt today is barely thicker than your phone case and our athletes are pounding their joints on that surface every day. Most worrisome and damaging are the triple jump athletes who are running and jumping with all their might and landing twice on this very thin rubber coating before they land in the sand. OUCH!


Creating a Well-Designed Track Facility

Plans call for completely removing the old foundation, sub-surface and worn-out track material. The next step will be to build a new strong foundation before adding the new surface. An important facet of this undergirding is improved drainage to ensure longevity, which is also included in the plans. Experience has taught us that a strong foundation with good drainage is crucial.

Michael Kinder & Sons, Inc. has been working with the planning group and can install a very cost-effective surface of latex coated granulated rubber on asphalt. The new surface will be 13 mm thick and we can expect 20 years of service with routine maintenance coatings and line repainting approximately every seven years.

The latex coated granulated rubber surface will perfectly suit Spring Arbor University’s purpose of being a premier training facility because, being thicker and softer, it’s better for athletes strength and agility training while being easier on their joints.

The current configuration of eight lanes is standard for collegiate competitions and our program can operate very well within eight lanes. Flipping the current layout of our track will improve the sprinting efficiency and allow better use of infield space for throwing events.

The new track facility will also allow the throwing program to grow, providing additional opportunity to increase student enrollments in future years. For example, the current facility does not have a throwing cage at all, which is another safety issue. This feature will be included in the new track project. The SAU track and field facilities currently do not permit us to even be considered for competitions. Updates planned will allow us to move into hosting future events such as high school competitions, increasing visibility and creating excitement and interest in SAU for potential track and field recruits. We expect the number of students annually to increase from approximately 100 to 120.

Other advantages of the renovated track facility include giving Spring Arbor University the ability to attract multi-event athletes, also increasing the number of students enrolled in coming years with the intent of participating in track and field collegiate competition. Beyond our track and field program, the facility will be more attractive and safer for use by other SAU students and the Spring Arbor community.

The improved and safer facility will also allow the university to run track and field summer camps, another way of increasing visibility and potential recruits for SAU in future years. Statistics show that college track and field programs attract and retain a more diverse population of students. The challenge SAU faces is that as training and competition facilities have become ever more opulent, student athletes looking for a university to attend across the board, including track and field, have come to expect their sport to receive the same treatment. The reality is that until we have facilities that attract potential students’ attention, it is more difficult for coaches to recruit high-caliber student athletes to the university’s track and field program. Coaches are prepared to make a significant investment in the lives of their athletes, developing depth of faith, strength of character and skills of leadership in each athlete’s life, but first we have to show by the quality of our training facility that we take their sport seriously.


Investment for Top-Notch Track Facility

The initial estimate for the cost of the entire project is $1,050,000. Since we anticipate work will not begin until the spring of 2017, when inflation is factored in at an estimated rate of four percent, the fundraising goal for the project is $1,092,000. To have a really beautiful and first-class facility, if we opt to have a color surface rather than the default black, the additional cost will be investigated. A color surface would be the athletic department’s preference because they believe this is one way to visually brand the facility with a distinct SAU look.

This year, SAU will have 106 track and field athletes. We believe making an investment of $1,092,000 for the project, which amounts to only about $52,500 per year or approximately $5,250 per student (or less, if we meet expected enrollment increases in track & field athletes) to make track and field safer at SAU for all our students, is in fact a good investment. Over the expected 20-year life of the new track facility, thousands of athletes will have trained in safety at a top-quality facility. What part are you willing to play in the future of track and field sports at Spring Arbor University? Alumni and donors alike will enjoy the pride of ownership of a beautiful, well-maintained facility and the new track will demonstrate professionalism in track and field that will enhance our brand and improve future recruiting of Spring Arbor University student athletes.

For athletes, track and field it is all about incremental improvement — better times, farther throws, and higher or longer jumps. Improvements to SAU’s track and field facility design are necessary, even crucial, to better times in the future of track and field at Spring Arbor University.