Archive for Thursday, March 22, 2007

Column: Liston track great; other problems loom over stadium

March 22, 2007

A new track with a new surface and eight lanes. Sounds great doesn't it? Well, looks can be deceiving.

Take the new track and add more than 200 people practicing on it at once and what do you get? Problems, but not new problems.

Springtime is here and that means lots of action at Baker University's Liston Stadium. The Baker track teams have been using the new facility for a couple of months, but they have a lot more company now.

The Baldwin High School track teams began practice March 5. Around 58 Bulldogs are out this season and most use the track every day.

Then, the Baldwin Junior High School track teams started using the facility last week. There are more than 100 BJHS kids out for track, which is great participation but only causes more problems.

Last year the BHS teams practiced at Wellsville two or three times a week because Liston Stadium was under construction. That partnership with Wellsville worked great from everything I heard.

The Eagles were done with practice when Baldwin arrived, so the equipment was available and the track was empty. I know the BHS coaches enjoyed the facility, although it meant traveling 20 miles every trip.

Aside from riding a school bus to Wellsville and back, the coaches were thrilled to have a track to practice on. But now Liston is open and being used. The track is soft and great for running, if space is available.

The Baker and BHS teams each need space to warm up, so they do that on opposite sides of the track. Then the running begins and the chaos ensues.

I experienced this for myself for eight years as I ran for BHS and Baker. It is frustrating when you are running a workout and you have to dodge other runners or people crossing the track.

I am not saying the students who are participating in track should quit or never go out again. I believe athletics are one of many activities that help teenagers become better people and can even create friendships.

I am just saying the numbers have become large enough that something needs to happen. Whether this is constructing a practice track near BHS or maybe using the Wellsville facility again.

I know money is extremely tight for the district, but it had the chance last year to get a bargain for a track and passed it up. The answer to this problem is almost impossible to come up with.

The district can't afford to build one. Maybe they could put it in the upcoming bond issue, whenever that takes place. By then, it's too late because the problem has been ongoing for many years.

I know track doesn't make any money and is not a big-time sport like basketball or football, but those athletes deserve a decent place to practice.

Now there is another obstacle. That is the other Wildcat teams that are practicing on the Liston Stadium field. I know one of the BU soccer teams scrimmaged last week while the track teams practiced.

Flying soccer balls and others that roll out of bounds can be a bit hazardous to runners, especially those who are running at full speed. I am not sure why Baker was scrimmaging at Liston instead of its North Park field, but once an injury occurs, they will wish they were not at Liston.

Another problem with the new facility is the lack of field event areas. One shot put ring and one discus ring have vanished. The shot put ring sat in the southeast corner of the parking lot north of the stadium. The newly paved parking lot, which is fantastic, left no space for a shot put arena.

There were also two discus rings south of the track, but only one exists now. A long jump runway and pit that used to lie on the east end up against the fence is gone.

I know fitting an eight-lane track into that facility was tough, but it looks like track took a back seat to other things when it came time to renovate.

My final gripe about the facility deals with the security. I have been down to Liston several times to take photos or talk to coaches, but I can't ever figure out where to enter or exit the stadium.

I used to enter on the northwest corner where the main gate is, but that is locked. So I tried the northeast gate: also locked. I even looked at the west gate, but, of course, locked. This is all locked up when three teams are practicing inside. Why?

I eventually found a door open under the stadium that leads through the locker room area and out onto the track. This is ridiculous, because the locker rooms don't smell great for one. But another thing, when someone enters the track, they will be walking right in the middle of the home stretch, where people are always running. Not very safe at all.

Well, as you can see, the Liston facility has many problems and the season has only just begun. I love the track and hope it helps the Baldwin and Baker teams run fast.

I know I am looking forward to watching home meets this year. I am just sad to see the problems that exist. Baker hosts the first meet at Liston Saturday and BHS will host one March 30.

Good luck Bulldogs and Wildcats.

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