From the minute Kansas University broke ground on the new Rock Chalk Park track and field facility in northwest Lawrence, KU officials promised that the finished product would be a state-of-the-art venue that elevated Kansas track to a new level.
Wednesday, KU released concrete proof that the school had achieved its goal, when school officials announced that the track surface at Rock Chalk Park will be recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as the fifth Class I Certified track on United States soil, and will be one of only 105 in the entire world.
Rock Chalk Park will join Oregon, Auburn and Arkansas at the collegiate level, and the surface at Icahn Stadium in New York to rank among the nation's elite track and field facilities. A coup in having a world-class facility like Rock Chalk Park has already been seen, as Kansas was selected to host its first NCAA West Preliminary regional meet May 26-28, 2016, which will feature the top-48 student-athletes in each event west of the Mississippi River.
"Our goal was to build one of the three or four highest-end competitive tracks in the nation - a world-class track that would allow KU to host not just state and regional competition, but national competition," said KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger in a press release. "This certification proves that we have accomplished our goals and now have a national championship team competing in a world-class facility."
Kansas head track and field coach Stanley Redwine is also pleased with the news.
"I'm really excited about getting the Class I certification," Redwine said. "That means that we'll have one of the top tracks in the world. It will help draw athletes from around the country knowing that they are competing on an outstanding surface. They can come (to Lawrence) assured that they're going to run fast times and have great performances at all our meets."
In order to be classified for IAAF Class I certification, Rock Chalk Park had to meet several tight tolerances:
• The cross slope of the main oval had to be less than 1.00%
• The downward slope of the straightaway for the running events had to be less than 0.10%
• The lengths of the 100m, 110m, and 200m events had to be within 0.010m of the proposed distance
• The lengths of the 400m had to be within 0.030m of the proposed distance
• Elevations and lengths for the report were measured to the nearest millimeter
The surface at Rock Chalk Park, installed by Beynon Sports Surfaces, underwent in-situ testing for the certification process. The average depth of the running surface for IAAF Class I certification is 12 mm, while the average depth for Rock Chalk Park ranged from 16mm to 19mm.
"The BSS 2000 system installed at Rock Chalk Park will offer the ultimate edge in performance while providing a safe site for daily training," said John Beynon, founder of Beynon Sport. "A force-reduction layer, constructed with butyl rubber and polyurethane will allow athletes to take advantage of top level control and maximum energy return."
Rock Chalk Park is a nine-lane 400-meter track with a seven-foot jogging lane on the outside of the track. The facility also sports a 436 foot (133m) six-lane warm-up straightaway located west of the track, which can also be used to run the 100m and the 110m hurdles.
The track and field stadium will have 7,000 permanent seats, and the ability to bring in 3,000 temporary seats. In addition, there is approximately 90,000 square feet of locker rooms, offices, official rooms, training room and athletic training facilities located under the east stands.
As of today, the plan is for this year's Kansas Relays — April 16-19 — to be the first event at the new track facility, weather permitting.