The Garden City USD 457 Board of Education on Monday night failed to get the number of votes needed to approve structural repairs to the track at Memorial Stadium, leaving the future of the track at Horace Good Middle School uncertain.
Three of the five board members voted to approve spending $234,000 on structural repairs to the base surface of the track, on top of the previously approved $130,000 track resurfacing project, with the other two members present voting against the proposal. Because the board needed four votes to pass the proposal, and board members Mark Rude and Jennifer Standley were absent, they were one vote short.
Board President Tim Cruz and board members Lara Bors and Jean Clifford voted in favor of the proposal. Board members Tim Hanigan and Dana Nanninga voted no.
For nearly an hour, board members discussed various options and the pros and cons of reconstructing the track or possibly looking at other options and surfaces. The debate focused on the tremendous, and unexpected cost of the reconstruction project and whether it would be prudent. Discussion also focused on the importance of maintaining a competition track at the school and the need to maintain the district’s facilities.
USD 457 Superintendent Steve Karlin said the structural problems were discovered when work began recently on the track’s resurfacing project. After crews removed the surface, they discovered the base underneath it was eroding. He said the erosion was substantial enough that it couldn’t support the resurfacing.
The reconstruction project would involve creating a base made out of 4 to 6 inches of crushed rock and 4 inches of asphalt over which the track surface would be laid, Karlin said.
The decision to not move forward with the project, at least for now, leaves the track in a state of disrepair. The surface already has been removed, but no more work can be done until a decision is made on how to proceed.
John Geist, plant facilities director for the district, presented the board with several options. There was the one being considered, which was to replace the base with the proper asphalt layer and new surface at a cost of $364,000 with additional future resurfacing expenses. Others options included:
• Giving the track a cinder surface, as it had prior to the synthetic track being installed in 2002, at an estimated cost of $280,000 to $300,000.
• Modifying the track into an asphalt track, at an estimated cost of $280,000 to $300,000.
• Removing the track and filling in the area with grass at an estimated cost of $250,000.
Hanigan voiced support for a cinder track, but Garden City High School Activities Director Drew Thon pointed out some drawbacks to the idea.
The track would not be able to host any competitive meets (it currently hosts one to two middle school meets each spring) because such meets can’t be held on a cinder track. He said most schools in Kansas started going away from cinder tracks in the late 1990s. The GCHS track is a synthetic track, while tracks at Kenneth Henderson Middle School and Penrose Stadium at Abe Hubert Elementary School are both cinder tracks. The KHMS track is only used for practice.
The other drawback, as pointed out by Geist and Thon, is replacement cinder is becoming more scarce.
The drawback to an asphalt track, according to information provided to the board, is they can lead to more injuries, deteriorate quicker than synthetic surfaces and also could not be used to host meets.
If the track were to be removed, according to the meeting documents, the grass that would have to be planted at Memorial Stadium would require more irrigation and mowing, and the track at Penrose would require more maintenance over time as the HGMS track teams practiced there.
Clifford asked district financial officer KJ Knoll if there were enough available funds to do the reconstruction project without jeopardizing other projects due up on the district’s long-range facilities plan, and Knoll said there were sufficient funds.
Clifford said she saw the construction project as necessary in order to maintain quality facilities.
"This is doing a needed repair that turns out to be a little more signifiant than we had anticipated to keep our facilities the way Garden City has always kept its facilities, which is top-notch, we're gonna do the best we can, and to provide those student-athletes a safe place to do that and to provide an asset for our community," she said.
Hanigan said he couldn’t justify the additional expense when there are other facilities that need attention in the district.
“We have a limited amount of money, and when you spend money on one thing, you are not able to spend it on something else,” Hanigan said. “And if you look hard, I bet you can find playgrounds that are in pretty bad shape."
Nanninga said she couldn’t support the track project at this time because she thinks the district’s priority should be spending money on recruiting and retaining teachers. She said she would like to see if the district could figure out a way for middle school track meets to be held at either the GCHS track or possibly the Garden City Community College track.
While the GCHS track team only hosts one or two meets a year, the stadium also hosts up to a dozen home soccer games during the spring, making open dates difficult to come by, Thon said.
Both Knoll and Karlin told board members that delaying work on the track now would result in the district missing the window of opportunity to have the current contractor complete the reconstruction and resurfacing project in time for next spring’s track season.
The board agreed to further discuss the future of the Memorial Stadium track at its next regularly scheduled meeting on June 28, or possibly even earlier at a yet-to-be scheduled special meeting.
Contact Brett Riggs at email@example.com.