New track faces opposition in St. Paul

Members of the community held a meeting Tuesday to raise concerns about the facility.

Ben Gotz

The University of Minnesota athletics department is still searching for new location for its track and field facilities, as the current space could be displaced by a new proposed athletics village. Jon Steadland, a spokesman from University President Eric KalerâÄôs office, said Tuesday evening school leaders are considering a combined facility with the Gophers soccer team near the St. Paul campus. Another potential option would displace parts of the historic Les Bolstad golf course, but not the land that makes up the courseâÄôs driving range. Steadland spoke to a group of concerned residents from the University condominium community 1666 Coffman, which is located across the street from the golf course and soccer stadium. Peg Houck, vice president of 1666 CoffmanâÄôs board of directors, said the residentâÄôs primary concerns with a new track facility include potential traffic congestion with the new Bell Museum of Natural History nearby, added noise, and the additional parking that would need to be created around the track. With parking and with the potential displacement of parts of the golf course, she said residents are also worried about a large loss of green space. Steadland said traffic concerns would be minimal if the new facility would be moved near St. Paul because it would be only be used for practice for the majority of the year. If the University were to explore putting the facility on golf course land, Steadland said it would be a priority to not displace existing turf research on the course. He said options for the course in that case include making it shorter or implementing an alternative course with a series of loops, so golfers could stop after three, six or nine holes. Former University of Minnesota basketball player Larry Overskei, who is currently the boyâÄôs golf coach at Coon Rapids high school, said the course is in the best shape heâÄôs seen it in 41 years, and expressed concerns regarding the possible down-size. âÄúGolf is an 18-hole game,âÄù Overskei said. âÄúWe donâÄôt play half-court basketball, we play full court.âÄù Steadland said the University is also still considering land on the UniversityâÄôs east and west bank campus for a new track facility, but declined to comment if land recently purchased by the University near TCF Bank Stadium was under consideration. Steadland also said a timetable for deciding where the new track facility will be constructed is still being worked out.