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UNF’s new track elevates Jacksonville’s national track presence

John Watson, Sports Editor

Featured Image: UNF Athletics

Years in the making, UNF’s newly resurfaced Visit Jax Track at Hodges Stadium has caught the attention of runners and fans alike. With Olympic stars like Allyson Felix recently posting impressive times at the facility, UNF has found itself as one of the top track destinations in the country. 

 Due to an unusually quiet spring because of COVID-19, UNF found time to update its facility at Hodges Stadium. UNF has partnered with the City of Jacksonville and Visit Jacksonville to resurface the track as part of a $950,000 commitment from the Duval County Tourist Development Council. As part of the commitment, the practice track adjacent to Hodges Stadium will also be resurfaced and fiber will be installed at Hodges Stadium. 

With the changes to the track, Hodges Stadium will be receiving fiber optic capabilities to allow enhanced broadcasting opportunities. (Justin Nedrow)

The projects are all part of UNF’s goal to remain a first-choice destination for national and international track and field events. Hosting elite events such as the NCAA East Preliminary and the Duval Challenge are just some of the events the track will host in its time. The economic impact of these events is in the multi-million dollar range. 

 Senior Associate AD of Facilities & Operations Ervin Lewis has been listening to the idea of bringing a new and improved track to Jacksonville for years. Working with the city, UNF was able to bring the vision to life.

 “Currently the president of USA Track and Field [Vin Lananna] resides here in Jacksonville,” Lewis said. “They [USA Track and Field committee] sold me on the vision of possibly bringing big track events and Olympic style track events to the city of Jacksonville.” 

 The new track is made with the same material as the track at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. Hayward Field hosts the U.S. Team Trials, and the surface at both sites is rare. Recently, elite runners from around the country participated in the Duval Challenge at the new track in preparation for the trials and the Olympic games. 

Going from light blue to dark blue, the difference isn’t just in the color (Justin Nedrow)

 Four-time Olympian Allyson Felix was competing in the challenge and dominated in the women’s 400 meters. A sub-10 100-meter time was recorded by Ronnie Baker, who ran a 9.99. 

 According to some of the runners, the track is bouncier than the previous track and is faster than the majority of tracks in the country. Former UNF Track and Cross Country runner Anderson Bobo volunteered at the Duval Challenge and sees a bright future for the Jacksonville Track and Field community. 

 “Having just one place for almost every professional sprinter in the U.S. and other countries is in Jacksonville, and that’s the coolest thing ever to me,” Bobo said about the Duval Challenge and the new track. “Just kind of having it, to me, it felt like Jacksonville was the heart of track in the U.S.”

 The track will last for approximately 10 years according to UNF and will host hundreds of national and regional events in that time frame. Having one of the best track facilities in the country, UNF and Jacksonville will continue to be a bright spot for sports tourism in Florida. 

____________

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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