IUPUI track stadium dodges wrecking ball

Once a strong candidate for the wrecking ball, the Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium at IUPUI will be around for years to come after receiving a face-lift and a downsizing, school officials said.

A $1.2 million project to replace the grass infield with an artificial all-season surface will be a major step in preserving the world-class facility in downtown Indianapolis, new improvement plans show.

The new plans for the stadium along New York Street are dramatically different than the ones in a campus master plan revealed less than three years ago.

In December 2008, the stadium and the Indianapolis Tennis Center were targeted for demolition. The tennis facility was demolished last year to make way for parking and an NCAA headquarters expansion.

IUPUI’s 20-year master plan called for the track stadium to give way initially to green space designed to help connect the campus to prime real estate along the White River. Later phases called for mixed-use development with stores, condos and other housing units overlooking the Indianapolis Zoo, the White River and downtown.

After the master plan went public, IUPUI officials added that the track—sans the stadium seating and press box—might stay as an amenity in the development. But those development plans, too, have been scrapped—for now.

“[IUPUI] had an outside firm come in [in 2008] to do that master plan, and I just don’t think they understood the significance of that facility,” said Greg Harger, who coaches an Indianapolis-based track and field team made up of Olympic hopefuls. “That facility has certainly served this community by hosting a number of major events, and it’s good to see it will be staying put.”

The infield project is set to start this fall and be complete by Thanksgiving, said Tom Morrison, Indiana University’s vice president of planning. After that, the stadium surrounding the track will be refurbished and downsized, though Morrison said no timetable has been set for that project, nor has the precise scope of the downsizing been determined.

The press box and main grandstand along the front straight will remain, and the grandstands along the back stretch also will likely stay, allowing the facility to continue to host a number of high school, collegiate and other events. The seating in the turn areas, Morrison said, will be removed.

Built in 1982, the facility seats more than 12,000. Over the years, the track has hosted events ranging from NCAA track championships to the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Morrison said the track and field facility was an amenity school officials didn’t want to lose.

“It will continue to be a part of the active space on the IUPUI campus for years to come,” Morrison said.

In the track’s infield, IUPUI officials plan to install FieldTurf, which is softer than AstroTurf and more closely resembles real grass.

School officials are seeking a grant from the Chicago-based U.S. Soccer Federation to defray the costs.

Replacing the grass infield with an artificial turf will give the facility more flexibility, Morrison said.

“Natural grass can only take so much,” Morrison said. “This [FieldTurf] will allow us to so much more, including track and field events, soccer and intramural events.”

Plans for mixed-use development were sacked in favor of making the area a quadrant for sports and recreation, school officials said.

Space created when the stadium is downsized will be used for other recreation uses, not for commercial development, Morrison added.

On July 13, IUPUI Athletics Director Michael Moore announced the school will launch men’s and women’s track teams next spring.

The formation of a men’s and women’s track and field team is a 180-degree change from the direction indicated by school officials in late 2008, when they said there were no plans to launch any sports teams.

The addition of two sports bring IUPUI's total to 16 varsity squads. IUPUI will be immediately eligible to compete in the Summit League Outdoor Track & Field Championships next May in Fargo, N.D.

“It only makes sense for us to sponsor outdoor track and field,” Moore said. “Our cross-country student-athletes have already been competing in spring meets, and we have a first-rate, well recognized facility located on our campus.”

IUPUI’s recruiting base for track and field will be the Midwest with a particular focus on Indiana high school athletes, Moore said.

IUPUI Men’s Cross Country Coach Chuck Koeppen will also coach the men’s track program, while first-year Women’s Cross Country Coach Antonio McDaniel will coach the women’s track team.

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