Track athletes given the runaround

Story and photos by LANISSA PATTERSON

While the Pima Community College track team finished competing in the NJCAA Indoor National Championship March 4 and 5, it has been two years since the Pima Community College West Campus track was closed to the general public. 

The track’s surface is blemished with cracks, some of which span over three lanes. There are mounds where the track does not lie flat. Walking on the track is comparable to walking on bricks. In addition, the West side of the track is torn and unusable.

PCC West Athletic Director Jim Monaco is well aware of the condition of the track, calling it “very dangerous.”

While the final cost of the installation is still being assessed, Monaco states the lowest estimates start at $200,000.

Despite the obvious risks of using the track, Pima athletes have continued to use it for practice. 

The athletic department has been working to get a new track installed at Pima, and it has been a challenging process. Monaco said that patching repairs would be counterproductive given the level of damage to the track.

“Patching and repairing doesn’t put the track in a position to keep our athletes safe,” said Monaco during a recent interview. “The damage is so deep, a patch isn’t conducive to what we need. It could need to be repaired again in a year.”

Finding an alternative practice location has been a challenge for the team. 

“It’s been very difficult,” said Monaco, “because of the fact that it is track season, and any available tracks in the city are not open until 9 or 10 at night.” 

As a result, team members are running mostly on the infield of the track where the soccer team participates, Monaco said.

While the final cost of the installation is still being assessed, Monaco states the lowest estimates start at $200,000.

In 2020, a capital request was submitted to the college to fund the installation of a new track, which unfortunately was denied, Monaco said. Capital requests are proposals made to finance large projects, and Pima is allocated a certain amount of money each year. According to Monaco, the capital request was denied because of other priorities in the budget including air conditioning repair.

Another capital request was resubmitted in 2021, and it was approved for the installation of a new track. The reconstruction was scheduled to begin in November, but it was postponed because of COVID-19 and the inability to source materials, according to Monaco. 

Because of the condition of the track, other teams have refused to compete at PCC West, which prohibits the school from hosting track events. 

The inability to host meets also has created a financial loss for the school. The athletic director estimated an annual profit between $4,000 and $8,000 from hosting track meets. 

If a new track was installed, the school would be able to host regional and national meets, as well as high school meets.

 For Monaco, the fight lies not in generating profits, but ensuring student-athletes are given what they deserve, a quality track.

On the bright side, construction is scheduled for the upcoming summer. 

“It is planned now for May, so as soon as track season is over and the team is back from nationals … it should be done,” he said. 

The Pima track and field team has 104 members and is nationally ranked. Monaco praises track staff, stating hiring a new track coach has been outstanding for the team. 

He speaks just as highly of track athletes, “Those young people deserve a premium place to workout. This is a college with tremendous ability, and our student-athletes are the best in the country.”