On Track for a New Field

Westmont plans to build a new track and soccer field with spectator seating to provide a first-class competition facility on campus.

Outdated track

In the 1960s, Westmont built a state-of-the-art track on campus. Athletes helped pour the materials for the facility and labored intensively to make it a community resource.

Today the track and field team still labors. With help from Head Coach Russell Smelley, they spend about 12 hours a week watering the track and smoothing its surface with a tractor. This careful work can’t repair the fact that the facility became outdated decades ago.

As the crushed brick and clay surface grows compact and hard, it can cause leg injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures. Not only has Westmont hosted only a handful of track meets in the past 25 years, but students can’t even use the unforgiving surface for practice unless they soften it through constant watering.

College officials desire to build a state-of-the-art track once again to match the quality of Westmont’s winning athletic program. “The Warrior coaches and athletes have compiled an impressive record over the years, and they deserve the best possible facilities,” says Steve Baker, vice president for advancement.

Plans for the new all-weather track include an up-to-date surface, permanent spectator seating and a regulation-size soccer field within the track. The estimated cost is $2.2 million; to date, donors have given $170,000.

“A new facility would complete the athletic com-plex,” says Dave Wolf, athletic direc-tor and head men’s soccer coach. “Once the track is finished, seven of our 12 intercollegiate sports (60 percent) will have their own competition facilities as opposed to the shared concept currently in place.”

Smelley lists the many benefits of a new facility. “A modern facility would improve training and encourage a larger number of students to participate in athletics,” he says. “Hosting home track and field meets would also encourage greater support by fans, reduce travel time and costs and reinvigorate team competitiveness. Bringing the GSAC track and field or soccer championships to campus instead of to Santa Barbara City College or UC Santa Barbara would enhance these events as well as the community’s connection with Westmont.

“From my perspective as a teacher and coach, it is important to do a great job in the classroom,” Smelley adds. “One of the major classrooms I use is the track and field. It is a magnificent setting, but the facility is dated.

“To fully subscribe to our educational intent — which includes physical fitness as well as intellectual and spiritual fitness — we need suitable facilities. A modern track and field would wonderfully enhance the curriculum and improve team performance as well.

“An all-weather track would aid in attracting new students,” he adds. “As it is, the facility is a recruiting liability.”

“While our athletic program is highly regarded nationally, our track and soccer facilities are dated and remain less than appropriate for a college of Westmont’s stature,” Wolf says.

“However, a first-class facility will enhance our students’ level of fitness. The entire college community, athletes and spectators alike, will come together to enjoy what will surely be one of the country’s most beautiful outdoor sports venues.”

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