The Track and Field/Soccer Complex
To be completed for the 2008-09 season, the new Northern Illinois Track and Field/Soccer Complex has been designed from the ground up with a focus on space, versatility and efficiency.
Track and Field
"The entire facility will be one of the top-rated complexes in Illinois," head track and field coach Connie Teaberry said.
The large foot print of the facility allowed designers to include several features not possible in a more contained area.
The eight-lane track will be made with a state-of-the-art material that is conducive to both training and competition, and includes an eight-lane straightaway. Thanks to a "sandwich system" that layers two synthetic materials, the new track surface will be nearly impermeable to damage from rain and snow.
"The surface won't allow water to seep through, which makes it more durable for the long-term," Teaberry said.
For field athletes, the complex provides the space needed to compete at the highest levels.
"We have two huge d-zones that give us the space we need to run field and track events simultaneously, which is great for meet management," Teaberry noted.
The north zone will house the high jump area, which nets the approval of Teaberry, a former Olympian in the event. Opposite the high jump will be an area for the pole vault, while the west side of the track will be home to three jump pits.
"With three pits, we can have two long jumps or triple jumps going at the same time," Teaberry said. "It's another factor that will help reduce the length of competitions."
The premier agent in reducing the length of meets is the separate throws area, which will sit just south of the track. The complex's two shot put rings, hammer/discus ring and javelin runway won't interfere with any running events.
The interior of the track will house the new competition home of Northern Illinois men's and women's soccer.
"I've seen the plans, and I've been to the meetings, and it's going to be one of the best," head women's coach Carrie Barker said.
Head men's coach Steve Simmons agrees.
"When you take a hard look around this northern half of the United States, you're seeing a lot of division-I instutions shifting this way, because it makes sense financially, and for our student-athletes," he said.
The turf will be Fifa 2-Star Certified when complete, meaning it is the highest quality artificial soccer surface available today.
"We're getting a Fifa 2-Star Certified surface, and that's quite significant," Simmons said. "What that means is you can play World Cup matches on it, or international matches on it. For us, in particular, we can host NCAA events as if the surface were natural grass."
With all the advantages of grass, the surface will also allow for a consistency that grass does not guarantee.
"(On turf) you can control your environment, and have an idea of how the game is going to be played," Barker said. "There's no saying 'it's too wet' or 'too bumpy'. It will be a perfect environment to play on."
Simmons agreed, adding that artificial turf helps to neutralize some sometimes unpredictable weather in northern Illinois.
"The advantages are going to be pretty significant considering the climate we're in," he said. "There's a good share of time during the year when natural grass is difficult to train and play on and becomes unproductive. With the turf that we're getting we're able to utilize that space much more during the year."
The new track and field/soccer complex will rearrange the set-up for not only compeitors, but also spectators. Fans will find an entrance on the northwest side of the complex, with nearly unlimited parking available in the Convocation Center lot. A set of bleachers will line the east side of the field, giving spectators a clear line of sight for the action on the pitch, or on the track.