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Construction begins on new track facility

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Pictures of the demolition process

The Kentucky track and field team will head to Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend for the Drake Relays. With the construction of a new outdoor track facility, head coach Don Weber is hoping the program can host a similar event on UK's home turf in the future.

After years of what Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart described as unacceptable conditions, the UK track and field team will have a new facility next year directly next to Cliff Hagan Stadium. Construction began Monday with the removal of the bleachers at the old facility.

"It's been a long time coming," Weber said. "It will be a great place for competition in terms of multiple runways, multiple high-jump pits, multiple pole-vault pits. There is seating near all the event areas. Track and field is like a three-ring circus. We've got seating at all the competition venues, so you can get up close and personal to every event that's contested on the track."

Demolition of the old facility is expected to take a couple of weeks. Once the demolition of the old track is finished, construction of the new track will commence and is expected to be completed by the start of the spring 2012 season.

The new facility will be a welcomed addition for a team that has trained in subpar conditions. In addition to an outdated and worn-down facility, the current outdoor track is incapable of hosting meets and is a negative for recruiting.

"We desperately needed one," Weber said. "We couldn't have a competition down there. Our old track, that didn't interfere with practice at all. The real problem is it wasn't much to look at, so recruiting it was an eye sore. It was certainly a detriment. I don't remember when the last time was we had a meet there."

Although the Cats haven't been hurting for recruits in Weber's 27 seasons at UK, a new facility should bolster recruiting efforts.

"More than anything, a facility is kind of an obvious demonstration in interest and commitment to that sport," Weber said. "The other thing is it's something that shiny and new and catches people's eye. They make a lot of positive judgments based on what they see."
UK Shively Track Rendering (2).jpgThe facility, which doesn't have an official name yet, will include a practice area, team meeting and storage building, meet administration building, stadium seating, plaza and concourse, in addition to the track, pits and throwing lanes of a typical track facility.

The only problem is, while the new facility is being built, the team will be without an outdoor home for the rest of the 2011 spring season. The Cats will practice inside Nutter Field House in the meantime, but certain events, particularly the throwing events, will practice by the UK Soccer Complex.

"It's a bit of an inconvenience but we're much better off than most places would be where you'd have nothing but the parking lot," Weber said.

The long-term hope is to host outdoor track meets, but Weber admitted that will be difficult in the initial process because of nationwide tournaments that are annually set for a certain date.

One event the team and the university would like to host in the immediate future is the Kentucky high school state championship meet, which is currently held at Louisville's Cardinal Park Track Stadium.

"The reality of it is, you spend that kind of money on a track, unless you're using it on a regular basis, you don't give yourself a chance to get a return on that," Weber said. "(Hosting) would be something that we'd be very, very interested in doing. I think we need to provide for the high schools, which in turn feeds our programs."

Weber believes the new facility, once completed, will compare favorably with some of the country's best facilities, in part because they're not trying to renovate an inferior facility. Starting from scratch, Weber said, is a good thing.

"There might be some facilities that have a slightly larger seating capacity, but in terms of put together well, I think it will be one of the best in the country and certainly one of the very best in the SEC," Weber said.

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