The University of Minnesota wants to find a new home for its track and field teams, soon to be displaced by the school’s ambitious $190 million athletics village, by the end of June.
Several locations for the track complex are being considered by the university, though it won’t disclose potential site details publicly.
One of the university’s options, should it be chosen, would rankle a different program, its followers and nearby residents: building the track on some of the university golf course property and changing the 18-hole layout.
The scale of the new track project also is still to be determined.
“We continue to review options for outdoor track facilities and anticipate a decision in the near future,” Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said in a statement. “We are working very hard to develop the best solution for the university, our student-athletes and our track and field fans.”
Construction is expected to begin later this summer on the proposed $190 million athletics village on the current site of the track behind the Bierman Athletic Building on campus.
An educational “Center For Excellence” facility, a basketball practice facility and an indoor football facility will be the centerpieces of the initial $150 million portion of the project.
Several university-owned lots have surfaced as possible future track homes, including parking lots north of Ridder and Mariucci arenas, and land on the St. Paul campus that abuts the university’s Les Bolstad Golf Course, the soccer complex and agriculture sites.
The process of studying these locations has passed the two-year mark, but associate athletic director of communications Chris Werle said the university hopes to have a resolution, possibly as soon as early June, that best suits the nearly 200 track and field and cross-country athletes, and the entire athletic department.
The university said it’s worked out deals with other local colleges to provide these athletes a temporary home once construction begins.
Golf course concerns
With land and parking options limited on the Minneapolis campus, consideration has been given to St. Paul campus locations near where the golf, cross-country and soccer teams train on university-owned land near Larpenteur and Cleveland avenues.
A Falcon Heights City Council workshop on April 1 addressed some of the community’s concerns about adding another large sports venue in the area. The 20-plus individuals that attended the meeting were most concerned how this might affect Les Bolstad Golf Course, and traffic in the area.
“This is a natural historic area. It’s been a golf course for 86 years. It’s got a lot of tradition and beauty, and I would be alarmed if it would be affected by an Olympic-sized track,” said Larry Overskei, a community and course member, and former Gophers basketball captain (1969-70).
“I’m a former Big Ten athlete, I appreciate facilities. But let’s not tear up natural and historic areas we all enjoy.”
Jon Steadland, on university President Eric Kaler’s staff, said at the Falcon Heights meeting that the university has put course renovation plans on hold while it considers its options for the track location.
“One of the things we want to clear up are any misconceptions of what the plan is, because right now we don’t have a plan,” Steadland said at the Falcon Heights meeting.
“There is nothing on the table, there is nothing formally that has been considered on how we are going to move forward.
“The golf course property in some way shape or form … I think that generally is one of the considerations and a possibility that we would consider in our examining, but what that would mean in terms of what the golf course property becomes, I don’t think there’s any decisions made … and there are other [site] considerations as well in St. Paul that we would consider.
“Track is a tough one because it’s a big facility. It just takes up a lot of space.”
Title IX scrutiny
While the location and scope are finalized, both internal and external investigations of the athletics department continue regarding possible Title IX gender-equity violations.
A complaint filed in January with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights centers on concerns that women’s track and cross-country student-athletes were being displaced and overlooked as the university moves forward on its athletics village project.
The university said this week that before the Title IX complaint it had retained a gender-equity consultant to proactively review its practices.
“The OCR letter indicates a broad full-scale review of our program in virtually all relevant areas,” read a university statement.
“We welcome their assistance in reviewing the program. …”
“[Our] self-initiated review is ongoing, and we expect to get the results, determine any corrective actions that may be needed, and make them public this spring.”
It’s unclear whether resolution is needed in one or both of the Title XI investigations before track and field complex location and scale decisions are made.