By SUSAN THACKER
Regional track and field championships may one day return to Barton Community College, coaches said recently.
With all but the finishing touches done on the new track and soccer field, coaches took time at the last board of trustees meeting to thank the administration and college trustees. Bryan Sailer, head women’s soccer coach, called the new facility "awesome," and David Schenek, head track and field coach, said it will be a plus for the community as well as for the college.
"Finally, we can say we have a facility that matches our programs here," said Sailer, adding the new soccer field will help with recruiting.
Schenek said the college will be able to bid on hosting state and regional high school events, and he predicts some day the Jayhawk Conference’s Region VI Track & Field Championships will again be held here. However, coaches won’t be bidding on that until they know they’re ready to do it right, he added. When the time comes, he said, "I want people to say, ‘This is the best meet that’s been run in the state of Kansas.’"
Track coach Nigel Bigby notes Barton won its 50th national track championship this past year, while the soccer team had its best year ever and took third place at the NJCAA national tournament. Now two of the college’s top sports have a new facility that’s worthy of their programs. "It’s a great new facility for us to train on and compete on."
"Our first track meet is planned for April 30," Schenek said. At that meet, spectators will be able to watch some of the best talent in the state.
The new track has been several years in the making.
Planning for a proposed $6 million track and soccer complex, complete with press box, timing building and lighting, got under way in 2006, but the dream of searching for a national sponsor was dashed with the country’s economic meltdown that followed in 2007. A new facility was still needed, however, and it was decided the work would proceed in phases.
Mark Dean, the college’s dean of administration, said $1.5 million has been spent so far. That includes a state-of-the-art track that surrounds a soccer field on artificial turf, and a building to store equipment for the sports and for maintenance. The track and the soccer turf each have eight-year guarantees, but Dean said the college is expecting the track to last 15-20 years.
"It’s a full-pour track," he said, explaining it was poured as a liquid to form a one-layer surface. Less expensive tracks are installed in layers, but can let in water that freezes and causes cracks. "This is probably the best track that you can buy."
The facility does not have bleachers, Dean said, so if the college gets the opportunity to host a Region VI meet it will have to bring in portable bleachers or build permanent ones. That’s included in later phases.