Feature Article - July/August 2006
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Special Supplement: Complete Guide to Sports Surfaces and Flooring

Something's Afoot

By Kara Spak

Track time

Most tracks are 400 meters and either oval or round.

Sounds easy, right? It's not.

"Tracks are very complex," Hogan says. "You can have two straightaways with two curves or four straightaways with four curves," known as a compound radius track, which is more commonly found circling around soccer fields.

"Some are short and fat," she says. "Some are long and lean...The shapes and inclination are very, very complicated."

The shape of the track needs to be specific. So do drainage systems needed to ensure the proper level of water is in—or out of—the track. Be sure to choose track and field designers and builders with care, she says.

There are three separate governing bodies for track and field events, each of which sets standards regarding track quality—the National Federation of State High School Associations, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and USA Track and Field. Hogan recommends selecting an expert track builder to ensure that you meet the standards of whichever governing body your facility aspires to.

"All three promulgate rules about the same events that in some cases are consistent and some are different," Hogan says. "For athletes at the high school level, they are younger and less experienced. You can make modifications to make it easier for the younger athletes."

If you do not pay attention to the specifications of the different governing bodies for track and field, you are limiting yourself to how your new track and field facility can be used.

"If you have someone who really doesn't know what they are doing, you can get a product that doesn't meet the [associations'] requirements," Hogan says, adding this can really limit the events you can host.

Hogan also issued a buyer-beware regarding track stripers, or those who contract out to lay the lane stripes on the tracks. There is currently a shortage of track stripers, she says, and the high demand for the services has made track striping a lucrative industry.

"This has caused a lot of people to come into the market who don't know what they're doing," she says. It could cause your track to not meet the qualification of the track governing body to which you aspire. It could also potentially become dangerous for athletes.