Track’s destruction may wait another year

Oct. 28, 2013 @ 08:19 PM

The famed track inside Wallace Wade Stadium, the site of so many internationally renowned meets over the last six decades, may not face its demise over the next few months after all.

Duke officials, working out the details of massive upgrades to the school’s athletic facilities, are considering postponing the track’s removal for another year.

Instead, the focus of the work will be on the 84-year-old stadium’s concourses and entrances, specifically the East Gate area, rather than the field and seating bowl.

“It is possible we are not going to remove the track this year,” said Mike Cragg, Duke deputy director of athletics for operation, on Monday. “We are going to be re-doing the whole East Gate area.”

Originally, the plan was to remove the track and lower the field following this football season. Duke plays its last home football game this season on Nov. 16 against Miami.

But Cragg said the idea now is to make improvements to the concourse area that will improve the fan experience for the 2014 season.

Under current plans, restroom and concession facilities would be upgraded on both sides of the stadium over at least the next 11 months.

“All of that will be totally changed,” Cragg said. “It doesn’t mean it will all be done by September. But people will be able to go to games and experience progress.”

The construction plans for the massive facilities upgrades - part of the Duke Forward project - are in flux for several reasons, Cragg said. One major aspect is the school is weighing the best way to get the work done with the funds available.

“Definitely part of the strategy is an impactful use of dollars,” Cragg said. “That’s something we always promise our donors. We are going to use those dollars wisely. That’s our proven track record in the past.”

The school has found that it could make more financial sense to remove the track, lower the field and tear down the Finch-Yeager Building at the same time after the 2014 season.

A new building with luxury suites and a new press facility will replace the Finch-Yeager Building. The sports medicine offices currently in Finch-Yeager will be relocated.

Duke has focused this fall on the new soccer and lacrosse practice fields that are nearly complete along Bassett Drive, behind Wallace Wade and Koskinen stadiums. Wet weather has delayed that construction by about three months, Cragg said. But those fields are expected to be done by mid-November.

Construction on the new track facility adjacent to Koskinen is expected to begin in mid-February 2014 so it would be ready for the Spring 2015 track season.

If a final decision is made to leave Wallace Wade Stadium’s track in place for one more year, it would mean Duke’s track and field teams will have a home facility in 2014 after all.

Those teams have worked under the impression they wouldn’t have a home facility next year while waiting on the new track stadium to be completed.

The facilities upgrades include planned work to Cameron Indoor Stadium as well. A new, two-story entrance lobby will be built at the front of the venerable building where the Cameron Circle is now located.

Cragg said tentative plans have construction on that project starting in Spring 2015.

A new building to house athletic department employees, a Duke team store and facilities for soccer and lacrosse teams is planned for the other side of the circle in front of the existing Murray Building.