It’s not that your track and field facility doesn’t look okay; it’s just that maybe, with meets on the horizon, it’s not quite ready for prime time. And let’s face it: there’s nothing like an upcoming deadline to make you notice places where the facility might be a bit rough around the edges.
The good news is that you can start now to get things back on, well, track. And if you start early enough, you can address not only the small problems you see, but also the more significant issues before they get out of control.
Below is a checklist for field owners and managers. You can always personalize it if there are other structures or facilities that need your attention first; however, these are a good jumping-off point:
Walk the facility: A regular walk-through of your facility is essential if you’re going to keep an eye on things. Daily walk-throughs are best, although some field managers might do it every few days, or even once a week. In general, the more use your facility gets, the more often you need to walk it. If, for example, it’s open to the community for walking and jogging when it’s not in use for competitions or practices, you should look at it every day. When walking through the facility, look for certain things. What does the track surface look like? Are the lines worn or faded? Do you see loose material? Are there dings or dents? If so, take a photo and send it to the contractor who installed the track and let them decide how it should be handled. Don’t try to do surface repairs on the track yourself, as it takes an expert to know why there are problems and how to fix them.
Check the fence: Do you see sagging rails or bulging fabric? How about sharp or protruding edges? This is a fast fix that can really help the overall aesthetic of your track. Check gates and make sure they aren’t dragging across either the track surface or the walkway leading up to it. Latches and hinges should also be examined.
Field equipment: Make sure all field equipment is in good condition. If anything looks worn or faded, a coat of touch-up paint can make a huge difference. If necessary, order replacement equipment. Most times, it takes less time and expense to get a new piece of equipment than it does to try to deal with the problems caused by an injury someone sustained on the old one. Look at everything, including the sand pits, in which the sand should be level with the top of the synthetic surface. (Over time, sand pits lose sand and may need to be replenished). Rake the sand to make sure no debris has found its way in, and keep pits covered when not in use.
The field itself: Whether your field is natural or synthetic, regular walk-throughs are necessary here as well. Synthetic fields should be checked thoroughly (look for seams that might be coming up, places that aren’t draining as well as they should, etc.). On a natural field, you’ll be looking for signs of pest infestation, weeds, divots or other issues. If field equipment, such as mowers, need to be moved over the track, make sure the surface is protected first with rubber matting, artificial turf, plywood, etc. Also, power equipment should be inspected for leaks. Check and make sure sprinklers on the field or surrounding landscaping are not spraying onto the track and saturating it with water. An overly saturated track will eventually damage the asphalt underneath and lead to bubbling, delamination and other severe problems. The only water that should fall on your track should be rain – and as mentioned previously, it should be draining correctly. Clean out drains and make sure they’re not backing up.
Peripheral structures: Restrooms, concession stands and other structures and amenities should be touched up. It may be as simple as a coat of paint, a floor wash or fixing leaky fixtures, but all can make a huge difference.
On the surface: Remove debris from the surface by blowing it away before it has a chance to be stepped on, or ground into, the track. If there are stains, ask your contractor how best to remove them as each track system varies in its tolerance of different cleaning methods.
Keep the weeds down: Porous tracks (particularly those that lack a curbing system) can, in fact, harbor weeds and grass if these are allowed to encroach, particularly at the inside and outside edges of the track. Concrete curbs will keep this from happening (or at least cut down on the potential for weeds) but if your facility doesn’t have those, a weed spray on the area leading up to the track can help.
Proper footwear: Invariably, track contractors recommend athletes use soft spikes, or spikes of limited length (0.125 inches maximum, and pyramid-shaped, say many) in order to prevent damage. Those using the track for casual walking or jogging should wear designated running shoes, not street shoes or hiking boots – and a sign stating this rule should be prominently posted for all to see.
As long as you’re putting up signage, make sure it clearly states the following (particularly if your facility is open to the community) as these steps will keep the facility in overall better repair:
Runners/walkers only: Tracks should host only foot traffic. Bicycles, scooters, trikes, strollers and more will damage the surface. Track wheelchairs, with sport-specific tires, are a different matter entirely.
No dogs: With the possible exception of assistance dogs, it’s a good idea to keep Fido out of the facility. While dogs won’t damage the track, per se, owners often allow their dogs to run off-leash while they themselves work out, and that can spell problems for the field.
Maintenance isn’t one big chore; rather, it’s a series of steps that, when followed carefully, result in a facility that looks as good at meets as it does when it’s completely empty.