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The right track 

Some of the city’s busiest track-and-field venues are in need of “Mondo” improvements. Victoria Foley runs with the story.

It all comes down to the weather.

Halifax Regional Municipality has agreed to repair the track surface at Metropolitan Field in Lower Sackville. The field is one of only two outdoor tracks in the Halifax area available to high-school and local clubs. It’s a busy spot. In the spring and summer, Met Field plays host to high-school track meets and provincial championships, as well as local club track-and-field meets. The latest patch job should make the track usable for the upcoming season.

But if it rains, all bets are off and the load that Met Field usually shoulders will be shifted to Beazley Field in Dartmouth.

The Met Field track has had problems for several years. The sealant covering the track bubbles up and chunks have lifted, leaving potholes in the middle of some lanes. The track at Beazley Field is made of the same material and has had similar problems.

Steve Morley is an assistant coach with Sackville Chebucto Athletics, a track club that uses Metropolitan Field. He says both tracks need a little TLC.

“At the same time, in terms of needing repairs in Sackville versus in Dartmouth, Dartmouth needs more repairs than we would,” he says. “When I walk across the track in Dartmouth, track comes up in my shoes. They never got sealant like ours did, so it’s pretty much bare pavement there.”

Beazley Field will get a fresh topcoat of latex sealant this year in preparation for the 2008 Acadian Games. Blair Blakeney, co-ordinator of capital projects for HRM, says that after meeting with some track and field folk last week, things are looking up for Met Field, too.

“They know it’s not perfect,” he says, “but with some touch-up we should have it usable.”

But maybe not. The weather will be a big factor in the repairs that need to be done—sealant covering the track surface needs three days of dry weather to harden.

“I would offer that as a challenge for May,” Morley says. “In terms of could they get through the school season as it is right now? Probably. There are a couple of spots that are starting to come up a little bare, but it’s passable with caution.”

Blakeney says the city will do the patching in the spring, weather permitting. If the weather does not co-operate, moving events to Beazley Field is still an option.

“It would be a mad scramble,” he admits. “We’d need to have those repairs done in late April or early May because the track season opens in May. We’d have to hope for some reasonable weather in April.”

Blakeney says patching will help Met Field this year and he’s already thinking ahead.

“In time, we hope to resurface completely at Met Field,” he says. “We obviously need a track out there and it would certainly be our goal to get it ready for the short term and then put a longer-term strategy in place.”

Rumours are flying that a complete overhaul of the track could happen in 2008, using an Olympic-quality surface called Mondo.

“Mondo is a surface that looks like old corrugated cardboard,” Morley explains. “It’s a fast surface. That’s why it is so expensive.”

Expensive is right—area councillor Bob Harvey estimates the cost of a Mondo surface at “upwards of a million dollars.” Still, Blakeney says it could happen.

“A lot of that will hinge around whether we get the Commonwealth Games or not—the Commonwealth Games will require a third track.” (That’s in addition to brand-new competition and practice tracks to be built at Shannon Park.) “We’ve identified that to be Metropolitan Field, if all goes well,” he says.

In the meantime, the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation is deciding whether to hold track-and-field events at Met Field. Tom Fahie, executive director of NSSAF, says the association is waiting to hear from HRM about repairs.

“The safety of the facility is foremost in our minds for the athletes,” Fahie says.

If the Lower Sackville field is not up to snuff, Fahie says the events can be moved. But there are not many options.

“We’re looking for a track that has eight lanes,” he explains, “and the places where we can hold the field events. So really we have Beazley and Met Field as considerations.”



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