For the second time in three years, Rome Free Academy’s 65th annual Copper City Classic Girls Track and Field Invitational on Saturday was not held at RFA Stadium on Turin Street due to the track’s condition, said RFA girls varsity track coach Brett Couchman.
The meet instead was held at a track facility behind the RFA high school at Griffiss park, after efforts to use the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill high school track in Verona were unsuccessful because of some light-pole issues, Couchman said Monday.
The RFA Stadium track has not hosted any girls or boys varsity meets this season, said Couchman, adding that a girls meet originally scheduled there with Oneida High School instead was held at Oneida.
The track at the stadium “is in bad shape and needs to be replaced,” school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said today, adding this has been known for several years; the need to replace the track had been among stadium issues discussed by the Board of Education with prior district Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons, who was succeeded by Blake in July 2016.
However, pursuing projects at the stadium and track has been complicated by state financial aid considerations. Simons said in April 2016 the school district could not conduct work on the stadium facilities and get state aid without tieing the work to a school building.
Blake said track and field facilities “are a central part of the next referendum project” being considered by the district. The district has been in discussions with the state Education Department regarding plans that have been proposed, and Blake has said a public bonding referendum to seek district voters’ approval of a capital project may be held next winter.
Part of the project proposes building a new athletic complex behind the RFA school at Griffiss park including a track. Blake pointed out in January that the district has learned it would not receive state financial aid to renovate the current athletic facilities at RFA Stadium. The RFA school at one time had been located on Turin Road next to the stadium before moving in 2002 to a newly built school at Griffiss.
Concerns about the track in recent years have included one of the running lanes plus the long jump/triple jump runways. In late April 2017 a BOCES safety official had indicated the track would be certified for the remainder of that season provided that patching was done in areas of concern.
The RFA girls track Copper City invitational event in 2017 was relocated to Camden Central School. Couchman referred to BOCES safety officials citing issues at the track over the past three years.
The RFA girls team had just one dual meet at RFA Stadium in 2017 while in 2018 the Copper City invitational event was the girls team’s only meet there after some areas were patched, Couchman said. But he also pointed out that over half the teams at the 2018 invitational indicated they would not go back to the stadium again because of the track’s condition.
Couchman said the track is “falling apart....You can’t patch it anymore.”
Using the current track behind the RFA school at Griffiss park is not a preferred option. That track dates back to the early 2000s and Couchman said of its surface that “they don’t make this kind anymore.” It is “too hard on the legs,” he remarked. It also does not have a full steeplechase facility, he added.
Rome school district Athletic Director Michael Stamboly on Monday referred questions about the RFA Stadium track’s condition to district operations and buildings and grounds officials.
Regarding BOCES safety reviews of the RFA Stadium track, Patty Cerio of the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES Safety Office on Monday referred questions to the Rome district.
Couchman said “we will not have a new track...for how many years” from now, based on the time needed for getting a referendum approval followed by seeking bids and awarding contracts before proceeding to construction.
The RFA girls track team’s remaining events this season include a meet Wednesday at New Hartford, followed by a league championship meet next week at Oneida and then by sectional and state qualifier events both at Cicero-North Syracuse, said Couchman.