SPRING ARBOR, Mich. – The Spring Arbor University track and field teams will have a brand new venue to call home beginning in the fall of 2017 as the university has announced plans to renovate and restore the Ralph G. Walker Memorial Track and Field Complex.
The $1.1 million project will see the complete removal of the current track, and in its place, a brand new eight-lane track will be installed with a top-of-the-line, 13mm latex-coated granulated rubber surface. The new track will remain in the same location, but will see its layout flipped.
The interior of the track will feature new long jump, triple jump and pole vault runways and pits. A new high jump apron and javelin runway will reside at the south end of the track, while a new steeplechase water barrier will be positioned at the north end. Another exciting addition to the facility will be the combined hammer- and discus-throwing cage. This will be the first throwing cage on SAU's Spring Arbor campus, an addition that will greatly benefit the growing number of throwing athletes.
"I have been honored to serve at SAU as the director of track & field and cross country the past three years," said Jeremy Smith. "Inviting Bryan Burk, Erika Vogel and Mark Koepf to serve alongside me on my coaching staff has been an amazing experience. We daily seek to live out our athletic mission statement by using our pursuit of athletic excellence on the track and in the field to develop within our student-athletes a depth of faith, strength of character, and skills of leadership essential for a lifetime of service to Jesus Christ. Over the past three years, our team has grown nearly 25 percent to 107 athletes representing seven states. Also during that time we were honored to achieve NAIA Scholar Team awards on both teams, with the women achieving a 3.55 GPA and the men achieving a 3.40 GPA."
Spring Arbor University has received a commitment for a lead gift of $400,000, plus a $200,000 challenge gift for a total of $600,000 from the Martin D. and Mary J. Walker Charitable Foundation to make these upgrades possible. Don Walker, trustee of the Walker Foundation and current member of SAU's Board of Trustees shared, "My father and I consider it an honor to be part of the track complex project at my alma mater. As a member of the SAU Track and Cross Country teams in the mid-to-late-1970s, I know how important it is to have great facilities on which to train. While our outdoor facilities were lacking compared to many schools, we were the first SAU track athletes to be able to enjoy the indoor track in the Fieldhouse. It greatly enhanced our ability to be competitive during the indoor season. With the help of many people, SAU made some nice improvements in the late-1980s with a new outdoor track, but it is time to take things to the next level. The size of our track and cross country programs has grown significantly over the years. We are looking forward to an excellent facility that will support the training needs for our outstanding athletes while providing a great place for people in the Spring Arbor community to run or walk. SAU has upgraded many facilities in recent years and now is the time for an outdoor track complex that will inspire confidence. We are hoping that many track and cross country alumni and friends of SAU will join us in getting this important project completed."
Smith added, "This new outdoor track and field complex will be an incredible blessing to our team, from a much thicker and safer training surface, to our new protective throwing cage and javelin runway. I'm excited to see all the different ways God will use this new complex to impact hundreds, if not thousands, of lives in the years to come. Thank you so very much to the Walker Foundation for the impact this investment will have to coach, mentor, train and inspire athletes for God's Kingdom."
President Brent Ellis remarked, "The renovation of the current track complex is very exciting for the university. The upgrades will benefit the track and field athletes immensely. The university is sincerely grateful for the generous gift from the Walker Foundation that allows SAU to move forward with the much needed renovation of the track complex. The faithful support the Walker Foundation has shown Spring Arbor University over the years is unwavering. Their love of the university and that for which it stands is a wonderful reflection of the foundation's commitment to Christian higher education and to the important role athletics plays in the life of a college student."
If you would like to learn more about getting involved in this project as additional funds are needed for completion or have questions, please contact Rhonda Saurbek, assistant vice president for advancement, at [email protected].