Some in the Penn State community are so eager to see the $1.5 million renovations to the university’s outdoor track that they’re jumping the fence — literally — to test it out.
“It’s a weekly thing that we’re having to go out and ask people to leave because it’s not open right now,” said Penn State track and field coach John Gondak.
In June Penn State teamed up with Beynon Sports Surfaces Inc., of Hunt Valley, Md., to renovate the outdated track, including replacing the surface that had been in place for more than 25 years. The project also included new shot put rings, hammer and discus cage, new electrical conduit and boxes, a steeplechase barrier and seating that meets disabilities law standards.
The third-year head coach is confident his team will be able to practice on the new facility by Sunday, the end of Penn State’s spring break, although a project spokeswoman said she couldn’t provide a timeline on when it will be completed.
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The project was initially expected to be completed on Sept. 15 but hit weather delays, according to Karen Werstein, a spokeswoman for Beynon, which calls itself “the leader in track surfacing.”
“The majority of it is completed. We have just a little bit of work left on the hammer cage and some other small things to wrap up,” Gondak said. “With the nice weather we’re having right now, hopefully it gets completed fairly soon.”
The team’s hammer, discus and javelin throwers have been most affected by the delay, according to Gondak.
“You can’t practice those events inside,” he said. “You can only do so much. You can throw the javelins inside into the nets, you can throw hammers into the nets, but it’s not the same as being out on your facility to where you can go 100 percent.”
As for the university’s club track and field program, “they’ve pretty much been in the same boat as us,” Gondak said. The club program can practice at the Multi-Sport Facility & Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track, which is right by the outdoor track on Porter Road.
The Nittany Lions’ outdoor season begins March 24, though they won’t host a meet until the annual Jim Thorpe Invitational on May 5.
Seven days later, Penn State will showcase the renovated facility to the rest of the conference when it hosts the three-day Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
“With us hosting the Big Ten Championships this spring, it was a perfect opportunity to resurface the facility and provide some upgrades to it so we could put our best foot forward,” Gondak said.
It is unclear whether the public will have access to the renovated facility once it opens, according to Jeff Smith, an athletic department spokesman. The university is still deciding whether it will be open to the public in accordance with Policy AD73, which is used to “establish the parameters for the use of athletic and recreational facilities at all university locations,” according to its general university reference utility website.
Mark Fischer is a Penn State journalism student.