A new, all-weather track desperately needed at Wa-Hi

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Last track season about 190 athletes turned out for the Walla Walla High School varsity track and field team. That’s an impressive number, but not an unusual one for Wa-Hi. The spring sport attracts between 150 to 190 boys and girls year after year.

The Wa-Hi and Richland High School track programs have about the same participation and have by far the most student athletes in the Mid-Columbia Conference, which includes all seven high schools in the Tri-Cities.

The Wa-Hi program is extremely popular with students.

Yet, the track now being used by Wa-Hi is lousy. It’s too small, outdated and in need of repair.

It’s also located about three miles across town at Martin Field, which is adjacent to Borleske Stadium. It’s expensive and a hassle to get the 190 athletes to the facility for daily practice. The school district spends about $8,000 a year busing the students.

It’s an unacceptable situation that has been going on for far too long.

That looks to be on the verge of changing very soon. A group of citizens, led by Scott Krivoshein, has raised $671,000 to construct a modern all-weather track on the high school campus. That would replace the rarely used cinder track, which is used by only a few joggers (and only those who are willing to risk turning an ankle).

The plan to build the new track with private donations is an outstanding one. The new track would be top quality and large enough to accommodate a grass field in the middle big enough for football and soccer games.

In addition, the infrastructure would be put in place under the facility to allow the grass infield to be replaced with artificial turf in the future without having to tear up the track. Thinking ahead is always wise.

The track project is expected to cost $850,000. To this point, the group — Mark Klicker, Eric Hisaw, Craig Nelson, Steve Gerling, Doug Rietz, Scott Magnaghi and Krivoshein — has raised more than $670,000. Raising another $180,000 or so won’t be easy, but this group — with the community’s help — has the drive to get the job done.

The benefit would extend beyond the track team. All students would use the new facility at some point as physical education classes could use it regularly. The cinder track doesn’t cut it for classes.

Sprucing up the grass field there will provide more options for games at the junior varsity and freshman level.

Additionally, the track project provides the flexibility to someday expand the facility into an on-campus football and soccer stadium for Wa-Hi.

And getting the track done and the infrastructure for expansion in place later this year could also be helpful in getting voter approval for a bond to redo some or all of the buildings on the Wa-Hi campus.

If the track is being funded privately, its construction won’t cloud the debate. The bond would not be about athletic facilities, but classrooms.

This effort to build a new track needs and deserves community support.

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