After nearly a decade of not being able to compete on its own track, Long Beach State’s track and field team will finally be able to experience a brand new facility that can be used for home meets and practices.
This project, which involves a complete replacement of the existing track and adding new bleachers, will cost around $4.5 million and is expected to be an eight month process beginning in September, according to manager of construction services Mark Zakhour.
The funds will be coming from campus reserves, which are cumulative unspent operating dollars that consist of state funds and/or campus revenues (deferred equipment purchases, salary and benefit savings due to vacant positions, utility savings, etc), according to associate vice president of budget and university services Ted Kadowaki.
Ever since head coach Andy Sythe took over the program in 1988, he had spent more than half of his tenure dealing with a worn or unusable track.
“When I came to [LBSU], the track was in awful shape,” said Sythe. “The problems we had in 1988-89 primarily dealt with wear. There were ruts, divots and chunks missing.”
Sythe remembers new jump runways being put in while the track was resurfaced in 1990. The team was able to enjoy a good track until 1998, when the installments started to wear before they were expected to. There were some minor repair jobs, but the core problem remained as the team had to make Cerritos College its home turf from 2006 until now.
“We moved to Cerritos College because we knew the conditions of the facility were unacceptable to host any meets,” said Sythe. “It became apparent [in 2005] that any patchwork or small repairs just weren’t going to do it.”
It wasn’t until around April 2013 that the platform was identified as a hazard.
Zakhour states how this new track will be an NCAA, IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations) Level 2 certified facility, making it one of the best tracks in the U.S.
While many Division I track fields are NCAA certified, being IAAF certified means meeting even higher standards such as being free from imperfections, having no potential slip between shoe and wet surface, effective shedding of water and other requirements that help create the best track possible.
Although Sythe believes that the lack of a decent track makes a difference in the success of his team, he understands the value of the university as a whole and instead, tries to gear his distraction toward his athletes.
“To see this coming together feels really good, but just like how I don’t dwell on frustrations, I also don’t dwell on the excitement,” Sythe said. “Right now, there’s a lot of work to do…”