On the west side of Chicago, a brand new outdoor track is being built at Hope Academy. The students of the school, along with local colleges and other youth programs will be able to use it beginning Nov. 11.
The 400-meter, blue track will have eight lanes, and be made of the same high-end synthetic material used on Olympic running tracks, says lead installer from Connor Sports Flooring Tom Bezik. In addition to the running track, there will be designated areas for high jump, long jump, pole vault, discus, shot put and steeplechase, making it accessible for collegiate meets as well.
Dan Daly, head cross country and track and field coach for The Latin School of Chicago, is excited for the opening of this track because he feels the number of outdoor tracks in the city is very limited.
“There’s a few public tracks, like Wilson Avenue, but not that many that kids can use,” Daly says. “The youth interest in the sport is growing exponentially, especially at the elementary school level, and it’s amazing, but we need the facilities for it.”
Hope Academy founder Bob Muzikowski says the school acquired 15 acres of land four years ago where the track is being installed. “Along with the adjacent gymnasium and all sports Desso Turf Field across the street, Hope has the best high school athletic facility in Chicago,” Muzikowski says.
Nearby universities, DePaul, Roosevelt, Robert Morris and the University of Illinois Chicago will be open to use the new track as a practice facility. The football field the track surrounds is also used by the Chicago Lions.
Bezik and his team have also installed a draining system underneath the track to prevent water and weather from damaging it. Because Chicago is a four-weather season, though, Bezik says tweaks are common, especially near heavily trafficked areas such as the launching and jumping areas. Luckily, Connor Sports Flooring is located in Northern Illinois, so making house calls is not a problem.
However, the track is slightly different than most 400-meter tracks, as the straightaways are shorter, allowing the curves to be more gradual.
“It’s more of a linear top curve, which is easier for runners with the more gradual curve,” Bezik says.
Currently, Bezik and his three-man team are laying 5,000 to 8,000 square feet a day, and expect the 60,000 square feet project to be done by the first week of November.
The ribbon cutting ceremony will take place on Nov. 11 at 10 a.m., and the first event will be the 2017 Hoka One One Postal Nationals event on Nov. 18. Every year, Postal Nationals events are hosted throughout the country, where dozens of schools gather to run two miles on a track to mark the end of the cross country season. Hoka One One reached out to Fleet Feet Sports Chicago to bring the event to Chicago; Fleet Feet then asked Daly if he knew a school who would host it, who, friends with Muzikowski, suggested the west side school.
“There is a lot of untouched talent in Chicago, so if there’s any way to reach out and provide more opportunities for youth, we should,” Daly says.
To raise money for the installation, Hope Academy partnered with popular Broadway play Hamilton: The Musical, and sold a block of tickets and that money went towards the track. They raised $1 million in one night, and the entire project cost $1.4 million, Muzikowski says.
Daly adds that he and Muzikowski are hoping to bring their two schools together for the first official track meet this spring.
Hope Academy was founded by Muzikowski in 2005, and is a co-ed non-denominational college and life preparatory school, serving unprivileged kids on the west side. One hundred percent of Hope Academy’s students get into a college or university upon graduation.