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Track project comes full circle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kyle Arnoldy   

Ribbon-cutting ceremony at new track scheduled for Saturday, April 5 at 10:15 a.m.

As the first track meet in Holyoke in 26 years is scheduled for Saturday, April 5, many people will see years of hard work and multiple efforts to bring an all-weather track to Holyoke finally come to fruition.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for Saturday morning at the HHS Invitational, incorporating many of the community members who helped make the dream of a home track meet on an all-weather track a reality. The ceremony will begin in front of the grandstands at approximately 10:15 a.m. before the start of the meet’s running events.

Hosting a track meet in Holyoke has been a long-sought goal for many, but for the past 20-plus years, the track in town has been unsuitable for competition. Constructed in 1950, the old track only consisted of six lanes, two short of the standard required by the Colorado High School Activities Association for hosting meets.

With the last home meet in Holyoke taking place April 16, 1988, for a high school track meet, Saturday’s meet will usher in a new era for Holyoke track and field athletes.

Sandra Rahe, HHS athletic director and head coach of the track team, noted how the new track has had an impact on the program.

HHS track and field athletes prepare on the new track for the first track meet in Holyoke in 26 years. 

—Enterprise photo

The old cinder track made marking lanes and exchange zones nearly impossible. This forced the track team to bus to Wray on many occasions over the years to teach younger tracksters how to run a track to prepare for competition time. Last year alone, due to the track’s tendency to flood and the mud that remained after wet weather, the track team spent more than half of the season practicing indoors.

“We have heard lots of comments from the kids that they finally feel like they have a real track program like other schools do and that they are finally getting to practice in the same kind of conditions they compete in,” Holyoke School Superintendent Bret Miles said.

Rahe also commented on the new track’s effect on the community. With local athletes now able to showcase their skills at home, there is a possibility to drum up more interest for the track program.

The project really incorporated many different community groups. In 1996, Dr. Bill Brown, Holyoke school superintendent at the time, began the initial push for a new track in Holyoke.

In the school board-approved budget, nearly $300,000 was gathered over close to 10 years and earmarked for a new track. Those funds came from annual capital reserve fund designations, as well as a $100,000 contribution from the Heginbotham Trust.

Those plans were drastically altered, however, when in 2006 the funds were needed for a boiler project.

Shortly thereafter, a citizens group was formed with the intention of not letting the track project fall by the wayside. Through a walkathon, the group raised nearly $12,000 for a new track. Progress again stalled as the school board voted in 2008 not to revisit the track project proposals for two years.

In 2010, the Holyoke Re-1J Foundation was reactivated after being inactive for 13 years. Within the foundation, a wellness fund was created to hold all money set aside for a new track project.

Community support quickly grew as funds from various groups began to come in.

The Heginbotham Trust donated $62,500; Leland Trust, $7,500; Phillips County Recreation District, $9,500; Holyoke School District, $25,000; Re-1J Foundation, $5,375; and the Jack Petteys Memorial Foundation, $100,000 over four years.

With all of the generous donations from the community, acquiring a Great Outdoors Colorado grant was the final financial piece of the puzzle needed to begin the track project.

Applications by the county on behalf of the school district for the GOCO grant were submitted in March and August of 2012, with the August request missing the cut by just one project. This past summer, on the third attempt at the grant, Phillips County was awarded $350,000 for the community track project.

Construction officially began in June. A post-tensioned concrete base was laid for a long-lasting and durable foundation. All-weather polyurethane bound surface was then applied. The high jump area was moved from the south to the north end of the football field, and new triple jump, long jump and pole vault runways and pits were constructed.

As a member of the citizen group that refocused efforts back to getting a new track, Rhonda Smith said being able to see the track completed and prepared for a meet has been fulfilling.

“It almost made me cry,” Smith said of seeing the track project completed. “It was very emotional because we never thought it would happen. We were persistent not to let anyone forget that we wanted this track. It was amazing to see it become a reality. I just beam when I talk about it.”

Paula Carper, also a part of the citizens group, said the idea of hosting a meet is exciting. Carper said she never gave up hope that Holyoke would be able to bring a new track to town.

“I am very excited that we can now hold track meets in Holyoke again,” Carper said. “I would like to thank everyone who donated money and time to get this project accomplished. It is a great addition to our community.”

Aside from the monetary contributions by many community members, several groups were vital in the completion of the track project.

Along with being the grantee for the GOCO grant, the county also removed all of the curb around the old cinder track at no cost. Highline Electric provided workers and equipment to take down the old lighting system and the city helped with construction of the new lights.

Along with the post-tensioned all-weather track, the project also includes the construction of an 11-piece outdoor exercise station.

Located east of the track between the two football fields, the fitness station will include equipment for back extensions, chest presses/lat pull combos, leg presses, pommel horse benches, push-up stands, self-weighted rows, sit-up boards, strength and stretch bars, uneven bars, bounding bars and a balance beam. Work on the exercise station continues when the weather permits.

Holyoke Enterprise April 3, 2014