Baylor University will build a new on-campus track and field stadium, a move that will fulfill its goal of having all athletic programs on-site, the university’s board of regents announced Friday.
The regents voted to approve the $13.6 million project, which will replace the current Hart- Patterson Track Complex near Floyd Casey Stadium.
The track stadium will include a nine-lane track, a new team training building with men’s and women’s locker rooms, stadium seating for up to 5,000 spectators, and a 13,500-square-foot indoor practice facility.
The track stadium will be built along the banks of the Brazos River next to the $250 million football stadium currently under construction.
Both facilities will open at the start of their respective sports seasons during the 2014-15 school year.
“It’s a tremendous asset to bring
Baylor track and field to campus,” said Baylor Athletics Director Ian McCaw. “The ability to connect with the student body and alumni, and also just take advantage of the beauty of Baylor’s campus is very attractive in the recruiting process. We’re very excited about it.”
McCaw said the university has received enough gifts to fully finance Phase 1 of the track stadium project.
A future Phase 2 project would expand the office space and student amenities in the team building and create additional space for equipment and training.
Also, the regents approved using architectural firm Populous and contractor Austin Flintco LLC, which are designing and building the football stadium, respectively, in hopes of reaping some savings in construction costs.
The idea of an on-campus track stadium was first conceived in 2005 as Baylor kicked off its $90 million “Victory with Integrity” campaign to build several new athletics facilities, including the Highers Athletics Complex training center for the football program, an indoor football practice facility, a basketball practice center, and the recently completed Jim and Nell Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center.
While overall funding exceeded the campaign’s goals, McCaw said it proved difficult to garner contributions to support the track project. But in 2012, Baylor alumnus and track letterman Richard Woodall and his wife, Donna, made the lead gift to help finance construction.
The gift was made in honor of Richard Woodall’s parents, Lewis and Mary A. Woodall, according to Baylor officials. It will be called the Baylor Track and Field Stadium.
Track and field head coach Todd Harbour said the program has long needed an indoor practice building for athletes training in hurdles, high jump and pole vault.
“When the weather gets bad in January, they may go for two weeks without any practice time and then we take them to a meet,” Harbour said.
“It really handicaps us a lot when we’re having to compete in the NCAA championship in March when it can be, one week you might have great weather, the next week it might be terrible.”
Moving the stadium to campus will also be an improvement for the approximately 100 student-athletes in the program.
Harbour said some of the students don’t have cars, particularly freshmen, so getting to the track stadium for practice was sometimes a hassle.
Also, the support staff for the track program, like trainers and academic personnel, already moved to the Highers Athletics Complex when it opened.
Having a new track facility in a prominent place on campus could also boost recruiting efforts.
Track program director Clyde Hart noted that several other Big 12 Conference schools are building new on-campus track stadiums, including the University of Kansas, Iowa State University and the University of Oklahoma.
Baylor hosts University Interscholastic League meets for high school students and recently held the annual Texas Amateur Athletic Foundation track and field competition. While the events can drum up interest in Baylor, it doesn’t give students a chance to experience the campus.
“A lot of them think Baylor University is the VA hospital,” Hart said, noting how close the Veterans Affairs Medical Center is to the current stadium.
“They see the stadium and all those red buildings, and they ask, ‘Is that Baylor?’ and I tell them, ‘No, we’re on (Interstate) 35. You passed us on the way in.’
“They don’t get the experience of seeing our university, and I think we’re missing a good opportunity to promote Baylor with not only the student-athletes but their parents and grandparents.”
Hart was the track team’s head coach for 42 years and helped groom nine Olympians who have collectively earned 13 gold medals, including sprinters Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner.
The current track stadium is named for Hart and former Baylor track coach Jack Patterson.
While Baylor’s football and basketball programs have garnered national attention the past few seasons, Hart is quick to note that the school’s track and field programs have sustained success during the past 35 years, such as finishing in the top four of the NCAA seven times, make it deserving of upgraded facilities.
“I think track and field, during some really lean years when we weren’t doing so good in some sports, we were the sport that was really getting the university the recognition,” Hart said.
“I think this is something our program deserves, to be in a place that it can get some recognition and get some visibility that we haven’t had (on campus).”
Regents this week also approved an operating budget of $482 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which begins June 1.
The budget is a $38.6 million increase compared to the current budget and also includes an additional $16.3 million to support scholarships and graduate assistantships.
The budget includes additional personnel costs of $16.7 million to support about 12 new full-time faculty positions, 46 replacement faculty positions and 41 new staff slots.
In other news from Baylor Regents meeting
In other action, Baylor’s Board of Regents approved adding a new Ph.D. in health services research through the Hankamer School of Business, which will combine statistics, economics, finance, and health care administration studies.
The regents also approved naming three buildings included in the new East Village Residential Community, which will open this fall. The living quarters for engineering and computer science students will be named the Gordon Teal Residential College in honor of the Baylor alum and Inventors Hall of Fame member. The science and health living learning community will be named Hallie Earle Hall after the first female graduate of Baylor Medical School in Dallas, who was also the first female physician in McLennan County. A third facility will be named the East Village Dining Commons.
In addition, the board elected three new regents: Shelley Giglio, chief strategist and manager for sixstepsrecords and Passion Conferences/Choice Ministries co-founder; Larry P. Heard, president and CEO of Transwestern Commercial Services; and Kathy Wills Wright, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant.
The board also welcomed new regent Randolph L. Pullin, chief financial officer for Stedman Wests Interests Inc., who was appointed to the board by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Five current regents were re-elected to three-year terms: Jeff D. Reeter of Houston, William K. Robbins Jr. of Houston, Philip W. Stewart of San Antonio, Dr. Ronald L. Wilson of Waco, and Chairman Richard S. Willis of Colleyville.
Willis was also elected to a second one-year term as board chairman, while Robert E. Beauchamp of Houston was re-elected as vice chair.