Damaged track slows down La Verne runners
Posted Nov. 21, 2008
Stephanie Arellanes
The network of patches on the track around Arnett Field in the Ortmayer Stadium represents a minor hazard for athletes and casual joggers alike. The current track, which is 18 years old, was built over the original First Street. The sub-surface under the track has cracks, and the top layer has worn down. In addition, the seals that keep water from draining underneath have broken. Costs to repair the damage and install a new track is estimated at $800,000.

Roland Ortmayer, for 20 years, transported by van his small track teams to Pomona College for meets when he was head coach. Then, because the University of La Verne’s track was clay, it did not meet NCAA specifications to host home track meets.

Next spring, current track and field head coach Pat Widolff will again be bussing his teams to track meets at other conference schools, as he did last season, since La Verne’s track once again falls short of meeting NCAA standards to host home track meets. The track is not used for competition, just practices.

Because of an engineering error that took place in 1972 when the Supertents were built, First Street was buried intact under the track and field. With the construction of the Tents on the previous site of the historic track and field, and the consequent move of the track and field to its present location in the early 1970s, the street under the field was not removed. Consequently, on wet years, the asphalt traps water and causes it to percolate back to the surface, compromising the rubber track surface.

Because of the current cracks, bumps, bubbles and delamination that have formed in several lanes on the track, La Verne had to forfeit its rights to host the spring 2009 SCIAC championships.

Consequently, ULV’s junior sprinter Adam Kazub, the fastest runner in SCIAC, who won the 100m and 200m in the SCIAC championship last year, will be able to defend his title next spring. But ULV fans will not be able to shake their pom-poms in the stands of Ortmayer Stadium.

“It’s horrible,” Kazub said. “There’s pot holes; you can’t compete on it.”

“The conditions are pretty bad,” junior sprinter Seve Villarreal said. “[In practice] we have to use specific lanes so you don’t run on it.”

A new track proposal was sent in September to the Capital Projects Evaluation Committee from the athletic department, claiming the current track was unsafe and asking for funds to resurface and possibly dig up the buried First Street asphalt.

The proposal was forwarded to senior administration officials.

Roger Hardy, deputy vice president for major projects, said replacing the track would cost upwards of $800,000, an “expensive” amount the school cannot afford at the present time.

He said just resurfacing the track is an option but added that it would not solve the underlying problem. “You can resurface the track, but it wouldn’t provide a long term or immediate satisfaction,” Hardy said. During the past several years, track repair and patching has been attempted, at a cost of $8,000 a year. Unfortunately, the repairs have created uneven surface areas.

The problem started, according to Hardy, when a decision to put in an all-weather track went into effect. First Street, which runs parallel to the athletic fields, once crossed east to west under the south end of the stadium. Hardy said the people in charge did not take out the First Street asphalt when the new track and field was put in place. That, he said, now needs to take place before the track is resurfaced.

The track has been resurfaced once before in 2002. But wet years caused water to be trapped and store up inside the track, which causes the rubberized surface to bubble up or crack. In addition, the seals that protect water from draining underneath have broken.

Widolff, professor of movement and sports science, is in his 18th season as head coach, having taken over the program when Ortmayer retired.

He said that while the conditions are not favorable for his team, they nonetheless hold practices on the track. “It hasn’t been difficult, but it hasn’t been easy,” Widolff said. “If we know where the bad spots are, it will be OK.”

The question of recruiting is also raised by the track condition. Kazub said that on his recruiting trip, he was not impressed with the track. “It’s harder to recruit people with the conditions on the track,” Kazub said. “A lot of people are discouraged by the track.”

“My parents ask me, ‘Why don’t we have track meets here?’” Kazub said.

Villarreal said he feels the same. “They come here and see it and say like, ‘Wow, what are they doing here?” Villarreal said. “I wouldn’t have come here if I knew the track was in poor shape.”

But Widolff feels differently. “I don’t want them to come here for the track,” Widolff said. “I want them to come here for the school.”

Kazub noted that he would have more pride in the school if there were a new track. “I’ll be happy to compete here,” Kazub said. “We put our best into winning. We put La Verne here.”

When the track was in good condition, ULV hosted many invitationals for college track teams.

The athletics department has also lost a source of rental revenue. The track was used for several California Interscholastic Federation regional meets by local high schools.

Widolff said that the invitationals were fundraisers, with the rental proceeds going toward uniforms and track equipment. The invitationals made $6,000 to $10,000 each year, “depending on how many teams came,” he said.

While the track is currently not on the docket to be fixed, key administrators still believe the fix is a possibility, but the list is long. “There is still a concern there,” David Koch, director of facilities management, said. “The track is still on the list to do, but we’re looking at all of our projects.”

Koch said that the current U.S. economic climate and ULV enrollment fluctuations factored in the decision to hold out the track repairs. “We would have moved on it and gotten it done if the enrollment was upheld,” Koch said.

With the John and Sarah Abraham Campus Center and Hanawalt House being constructed this year, Koch said many projects are being put on hold, along with the track. Among the held projects are the construction of new dormitories. Also, Koch said that projects moved up in importance, such as the re-roofing of Hoover building, which Koch said may start leaking if the problem is not fixed soon.

Koch said that just resurfacing the track would be “a cheap fix.” He said he would not weigh the option out if a mass majority wants to do it that way. However, he wants decision makers to understand the consequences.

“I believe doing it right is the right way to go,” Koch said.

While students feel frustration, administration members said they want them to know that they are trying their best with the situation.

Hardy said he believes the track should be on the school’s top priority list.

“There’s no doubt it needs to be done. We can’t have a track program without a track,” Hardy said. “If we are going to do it, we need to do it right.”

“Unfortunately, you don’t get everything you want in life, and it’s important for our students to understand,” Widolff said. “I think it’s a good lesson that all our athletes need to have.”

Widolff said he does not have a problem problem with taking his teams to Pomona College. “It shouldn’t keep us from being a good team,” Widolff said. “We have really good runners here. We don’t use that as an excuse.”

Jonathan Smith can be reached at jonathan.smith@laverne.edu.

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