A lane for creating a “softer” track in Soldiers Memorial Field Park opened this week.
Rochester’s Park Board opted to delay plans to replace the existing cinder track with an asphalt oval, giving local track advocates a chance to provide another option.
“It looks like it’s something that’s going to work for everybody,” Park Board Member Vickie Anderson said following the decision.
The Save The Track movement started after the Rochester City Council provided $850,000 earlier this year to pave the track and a nearby parking lot. Track advocates cited the site’s historical relevance, as well as health concerns related to running on asphalt.
In suggesting the asphalt option, park staff had pointed to the desire to use the track and surrounding park area as a festival grounds, but noted the existing cinders, which cannot be replaced, have caused problems with events held following summer rains.
The Park Board approved paying nearly $362,000 to pave the parking lot south of the track and East Soldiers Field Drive, between the lot and Seventh Street Southwest.
Paving the track as part of the project would have cost approximately $295,000, which the Park Board said could be earmarked for an alternative track surface, which is expected to be an aggregate made of clay and engineered soils, similar to what is used on baseball fields.
Additional costs will likely need to be funded through local fundraising or grants, and Park Board members indicated a desire to see steady process on finalizing a plan.
“I don’t want to delay this and end up like so many projects,” Park Board Member Chad Ramaker said.
Mike Nigbur, the city’s park and forestry division head, said the Save The Track group has been told the track is expected to be improved in time for Rochesterfest next year.
“Rochesterfest is a great group to have at Soldiers Field,” he said. “They have tolerated the track in horrible condition for many years.”
If the final surface is not complete by next year’s event, Nigbur said it would be acceptable to have a temporary crushed-rock surface in place for the weeklong event, which includes parking food trucks on the track.
The Save The Track group has not yet provided specific plans or cost estimates for the alternative surface.
An online fundraiser in the group’s name had nearly $7,700 in donations by noon Wednesday.