The dedication will be held for the highly anticipated Larson Track & Field Complex on Friday, Sept. 20, but the facility will not be completed, according to an email from assistant director of athletic communications Ryan Hilgemann.
“It’s disappointing that our student-athletes are delayed from using the facility. The weather hasn’t been cooperative as they look to finish up the complex,” said Athletic Director Josh Morton in a statement included in the email. “At the end of the day this has been a ten year plus wait so adding a few days to completion will still be worth the wait.”
In spring of 2018, Augustana announced its plans for an indoor track & field facility. Since then, the plans have been revised twice.
The compromised $4 million complex includes an eight-lane Beynon surface and 100 yards of infield turf, accompanied by the Vance Butler Field Events Area. The field area includes high jump, pole vault runways and space for long and triple jump.
According to GoAugie, the target completion date was Aug. 15.
Senior distance runner Wyatt McLeod said the delay does not bother him because the initial date set was for October.
Head track coach Tracy Hellman said the team expects to practice on it after the dedication, but Morton said he is hopeful the team will be able to use it a couple of days in advance.
The night of Sept. 10, three EF-2 tornadoes wreaked havoc in southeastern Sioux Falls, but the construction area remained untouched.
“My whole drive into work [on Wednesday], I was very nervous because I didn’t know what I was going to see,” Morton said. “I was worried that there would be turf in Brandon.”
However, Morton said the contractors had tarped off the turf area and weighed it down for protection.
Despite their efforts, progress was slowed by the weather. Morton said the rain and wind prevented the crew from spraying any paint.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 17, the project is complete except for landscaping, painting the lanes and setting up a storage unit. Hilgemann said that the track is anticipated to be done next week and available for student-athlete use.
Hellman said that without the track, the team “makes it work” by running around Sioux Falls, but he looks forward to the team being able to practice outside.
“There are some training aspects we haven’t been able to do—strides after a run, turf work.” Hellman said. “Just having it close to the locker rooms is convenient. So if it is inclement weather, we can go out and get back in pretty quick. That’s a big benefit that we find.”
A step towards Division I, a misstep in communication
Not everyone is content with the 300-meter outdoor complex. Senior sprinter Sarah Westerman said that during a fall team meeting, the student-athletes were told the 300-meter track was “a step towards an SDSU facility.”
Last December, Westerman was vocal about her dismay with the lack of communication between administration and athletes when plans for the outdoor track were unveiled.
“I feel like we’re always caught in the act of making it sound better than what we have,” Westerman said. “You can’t fault them, because part of the transition to Division I is making the best with what you have, but it’s just almost like, ‘what am I gonna hear next?’”
Westerman’s concerns do not just lie with broken promises.
“We can get zero funds from that track as is, so in order for us to make profit for our sport and for Augie, we would have to put a dome or roof on it, because 300-meter is just more accepted indoors,” Westerman said.
McLeod said that not having an indoor facility is a detriment to the Augie athletic programs because the surrounding Division I schools—schools the Vikings will be competing against—have indoor facilities to practice in.
“During the winter, if we have a big indoor turf, football can use that, softball can use that, soccer can use it,” McLeod said.
There might still be a dome (someday)
Morton said that a dome will be built over the complex as soon as possible.
“That’s the reason we built it for 300-meter; we knew that we wanted to put a cover over it when we could,” Morton said. “The president and I decided this was the right thing to do to get something done. And now we have an opportunity to fundraise for the rest.”
Looking ahead, Morton said that a 300-meter track is also better for indoor season.
“300-meter allows you to host national and regional competitions,” he said. “And you can fit more turf space inside, too.”
McLeod said the team is finding the positives in its opportunity to run on a track they can call their own. He said he’s especially pumped for the infield turf.
“That’s gonna be, like, the track team’s space. I can do barefoot runs on there, strides are gonna be great on there [and] stretching after runs. I’m going to love using the turf, specifically,” McLeod said.
Westerman is most excited for a space that belongs to the track team, as well.
“I’m excited to have that, even if it is for two months, and to have a space that I know is priority, where I won’t be running into anyone else while we have it,” she said. “I’m grateful that I’ll have a chance to run on it before I leave here after being promised everything that we were. At least I’ll get to have a piece of what they said.”