January 19, 2017

Carroll’s athletic stadium, I’ve been told, once stood as a marvel of western Iowa. When the State baseball tournament was being held next door at Merchants Park, eyes would gaze over at the football and track complex with amazement.

Fans from across the state would look at the lush green grass, the perfect black track, and think to themselves, “I wish our school had a football stadium like that.”

Now, when visitors come to Carroll, they park a little farther away, wanting to avoid damage to their car if one of the dated structures holding the stadium together happens to fail.

What has once a marvel has not only become a relic, it is also a safety risk.

The track, I’ve seen better. I dare to say I’ve even seen better track conditions at stadiums with dirt tracks.

From patches in the asphalt to fading track lines, it feels like track and field events at Carroll Stadium are better suited for middle school or elementary school events, than high schools.

It’s a shame too, because some of the best track and field athletes are forced to practice and hone their skills on the deteriorating track in Carroll.

A vote for the new stadium, is one that I believe will not only improve the image of Carroll, but also continue to help our local athletes.

You may recall, earlier this year I wrote that if we had an artificial surface on the field then both Kuemper Catholic and Carroll High School would be able to host the playoff games, that they earned, at home.

It’s not just football that would be bettered by a vote for the new stadium.

“Our track is much harder than other tracks,” said Kuemper Catholic junior Miles Rupiper. Last year as a sophomore, Rupiper qualified for both the Drake Relays, as well as the class 2A State championships in three track and field events, the long jump, the high jump and as a member of the 4x100 relay team. “You can definitely tell the difference between Harlan’s track [and ours] because theirs is much softer.”

All-weather tracks, like the one that Carroll currently has, are made up of a few different components.

The very bottom layer is asphalt. On top of that asphalt is a layer of a special rubber compound that is supposed to make the track softer, and provide a safe and consistent surface for runners.

However over the years, Carroll’s track has worn down. The rubber, while still there is thin, which means the runners are essentially running on the very bottom asphalt layer.

The asphalt isn’t perfect though. Cracks from various freeze-thaw cycles have formed in countless places around the surface of the track. Although they are fixed annually, the track that has been patched together is a far-cry from what it once was.

“The maintenance staff has done a good job of finding and repairing cracks as they present themselves over the years and fortunately we have been lucky that nobody has had a serious injury due to the issues with the dated track surface,” said Carroll High School track coach, Steve Schable. “Simply put, [the track] has outlived its life expectancy. The track is worn out!”

The worn out surface has caused some strains on athletes competing in Carroll. Although the top-rubber surface is supposed to be weatherproof, especially heavy rains have soaked, and impacted races before.

“Our run way is very worn down and I have seen people slip on it,” Rupiper said. “A softer track is just better in the instance where is doesn’t cause shin splints and things like the harder track would do.”

Schable, who is also the director of sports performance at St. Anthony Regional Hospital, also explained that running on a hard track will increase the aches and pains that come with running on such surfaces.

Schable, as well as I, fear what could happen if a new track isn’t replaced in the next couple of years.

“The safety of all athletes is top priority in every athletic setting,” Schable said. “It is my hope that the track and entire facility be replaced before an incident occurs where an athlete, whether it be one of ours, or one of our opponents, is injured because of the poor condition of the track.”

Last year Rupiper was able to set numerous personal and school records in his jumping ability. However, all of those records came on newer, softer tracks in the area. None of his records were close to being matched at home meets.

Rupiper explained that at other places where he has ran, it’s easier to get an approach, especially in high jump, because newer tracks have more room.

Schable explains why the shortened jumping and warm up area could effect high jumpers.

“Obviously a shortened and smaller approach area will affect those athletes that are used to having a larger area,” Schable said. “I know that my jumpers all utilize longer approaches, so transitioning from the grass surface to all weather surfaces is a challenge at times, especially when the weather conditions aren’t good. Our performances (jumping events) tend to be better at the many newer, modern facilities we compete at.”

It’s also a pride thing for the students and coaches.

“I like to think our kids will compete on any surface,” Schable said. “However, saying that, I do know that our times and performances tend to be better on all of the newer surfaces we compete on throughout the season. The visible cracked subsurface and numerous black caulk lines spattered around the current track might not hinder our team, but they definitely do not help our program. In my 11 years as a head track coach, our facility has become, hands down the worst that we compete on.”

Carroll may have lost the State baseball tournament, but fans still come to the area for various sporting events throughout the year. Most of them take visitors near the eyesore that Carroll’s Athletic Stadium has become. They shouldn’t be treated to a deteriorating track, and stadium.

From personal experience I know that I have flaked paint off of the hand rails of the stadium, by doing nothing more than gliding my hand down the rail while walking to various locations throughout the stadium.  

“I can think of many reasons that a new stadium would benefit Carroll,” Schable said. “A new stadium will boost a sense of pride for the athletes and coaches using the facility, as well as the fans and community members attending events at it. The quality of the athletic facilities can be a deal maker or a deal breaker for some families considering a move to this community, as well as those deciding to stay in the community. There are many nice facilities already established in Carroll, a new athletic facility is one that I believe will have an immediate and positive impact for the City of Carroll and will continue to make it a great place to live, work and raise a family.”