Lee University officials are moving forward with plans to turn the track at Ocoee Middle School into track fit for an NCAA track and field program. The Bradley County Board of Education …
Lee University officials are moving forward with plans to turn the track at Ocoee Middle School into track fit for an NCAA track and field program.
The Bradley County Board of Education unanimously voted Thursday to extend the scope of an existing partnership between Lee University and Bradley County Schools to build a track both Lee athletes and OMS students can use.
“It’s been our dream to build a really first-class track and field complex,” said Dr. Paul Conn, president of Lee University.
In the past, the two entities signed an agreement to revamp the baseball field at Ocoee Middle School, which is close to Lee's campus. Lee paid for upgrades to the OMS field, and the university gets to use what is now called Olympic Field for its games. Lee also made a major renovation to it last year.
In December 2017, Conn approached the school board to ask if there could be a similar agreement for the track at OMS, and the board later voted to allow it as well.
On Thursday, Conn asked the board for permission to pave an old existing parking lot near the track. He explained the parcel of land on which the parking lot sits was not part of the areas outlined in the original agreement.
The board unanimously voted to allow this, after being reassured the parking lot could also be used for OMS events. The track sits along Parker Street, and Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash also noted it is near the proposed Partnerships in Industry & Education Center, or PIE Center.
“That was going to have to be part of our plan for paving anyway,” Cash said.
Board Chairman Troy Weathers said he appreciates the partnership between Lee and the school district.
Students at OMS are essentially getting a new track at no cost to the district. Lee and OMS will simply have to work together to determine when the track and field can be used, as they already do for the baseball field.
Conn said he is excited about the opportunity for Lee to have a track and field complex. Though Lee has an NCAA Division II track and field team which has competed nationally, it does not have a dedicated space for events.
The university president said Lee is “prepared to invest two to three million” to create a nice track and field complex.
The current track is a paved oval with a field in the middle. The new track will be a collegiate-quality track with eight running lanes and features a concession stand.
The field in the middle of the oval would be preserved for the sake of OMS students, and the university has purchased a parcel of land nearby to use for events like javelin throwing which could damage the field.
“We envision this being a magnet track and field venue for the region,” Conn said.
Construction on the new track and field complex is expected to take about a year. It will not be ready in time for the Spring 2020 track season, but Conn said the university is certainly looking forward to future seasons.
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