PDT Sports Writer
For the past eight seasons, the Portsmouth track team have been nomads, finding places to hold practices without a place to call home.
The lack of a consistent place to hold practices or host meets has been a factor in the declining numbers each year by those running, throwing or jumping for the Trojans. That all changes next spring when the PHS track team moves from Spartan Stadium, a facility they have shared with Notre Dame, to the new track area on the Trojan athletic complex.
“I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of that facility,” Portsmouth boys track coach Chuck Burke said. “The job that (Portsmouth City Schools Director of Facilities) Ralph Applegate and his crew have done there is just amazing, like it has been with all of the other facilities as far as incorporating stuff from the old places.”
Among some of the items Burke referenced is the Trojan statue that welcomes guests when they enter from either the entrances parallel to Ninth or Waller Street. It had previously greeted fans entering the high school gymnasium.
“What we tried to do was bring in part of our history, nostalgic parts from buildings and structures from the old schools and incorporate them into the new facilities, to give it a unique design,” Applegate said. “I think once it’s finished, we’re in the winding-down stages now with little detail stuff that we have to do, it’s going to be a one-of-a-kind, unique track.”
Along with the statue, there will be a press box with automated timers and a trainer’s station housed underneath. The Ninth Street entrance will have restrooms and concession stands to go along with the main ticket office while the Findlay Street entrance will have a brick walkway.
“Now that you can see that the track is there and the parts are being put together, the excitement is strarting to rebuild again,” PHS girls track coach Arthur Lard said.
Finding the money and space
The nearly-completed track is another phase for the Portsmouth Athletic Department, which received funds from the trust of the Clark Foundation. In 2007, Applegate mentioned to a member of the Johnson and Oliver Law Firm, which was in control of the trust, about using funds to create a sports complex for the football, baseball, softball and track teams.
With the Trojan Coleseum and Hatcher Field finished results of the grants as a part of Phase 1, all that was left to create entering this calendar year were the track and the softball field that would be positioned adjacent to the track and behind the high school of Ninth Street. With just a few minor property and cleanup issues standing in the way, Applegate said the softball diamond will be completed in time for the 2013 softball season to finish Phase 2.
The process of the track started late last year as the mild winter allowed construction workers from J and H Erectors to work throughout the season. Since the asphalt plants had closed by the time a foundation needed to be poured, developers opted for concrete.
Once the weather was warm enough to sustain 55-plus degree nights, the actual track surface was placed on top of the concrete. Applegate said it wasn’t done until late June.
Out with the old, in with the new
One of the issues facing the developers was the location of the complex. With the athletic complex located deep within city limits, much of the proposed property was formerly the location of houses with foundations.
“Those all have to be dug out and compaction soil put back in,” Applegate said. “If you don’t that’s where you’ll get settling.”
After the suggestion of a blue surface was made, striping professionals were brought in to put the finishing touches. In charge of that task was Illinois-based Black Top Creations, which helped stripe the surface at this year’s U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Oregon.
Earlier this month, Applegate had plans to hand the keys for the gates to Portsmouth Athletic Director Joe Albrecht by the early part of August. While part of the group would put on the finishing touches of the track, another part would start on the softball complex.
Many of the Portsmouth administrators credited Neal Hatcher for donating money to add the finishing touches to many of the facilities at the complex so far as well as toward future projects. The items included lights and a concession stand/bathroom area at Hatcher Field and the stones at the Coleseum.
The bottom line
Albrecht said the new complex would generate anywhere from $8,000-$15,000 annually through ticket and concession sales. He also mentioned the goal of hosting either a district or regional tournament is not out of the realm of possibility.
“A lot of the schools in the community are excited about running on it,” Albrecht said. “Any time there’s a new track in the area, everybody’s excited about it.”
This upcoming spring, not only will Portsmouth be able to host its first home meet since 2004, the Trojans will also host the SEOAL track meet. Albrecht is looking to host five junior high and five high school meets next spring.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.