Potential location for new track and field facility faces opposition

Ben Gotz

The University of Minnesota athletics department is still searching for a new location for its track and field facilities, as the current space would be displaced by a new proposed athletics village.
Jon Steadland, a spokesman from University President Eric Kaler’s 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 course’s driving range. 
Last week, 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 Coffman’s board of directors, said the resident’s 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 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 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 included 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 boys golf coach at Coon Rapids High School, said the course is in the best shape he’s seen in 41 years and expressed concerns regarding the possible down-size.
“Golf is an 18-hole game,” Overskei said. We don’t play half-court basketball; we play full court.”
Steadland said the University is also still considering land on the University’s East and West Bank campuses for a new track facility, but he 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.