Fairhope's newest jewel: $2.5 Million Track and Field Complex promises safe training grounds for athletes

Lifestyle Editor
Posted 2/23/24

Fairhope High School track and field team members, coaches, city and school officials celebrated the completion of the Track and Field Complex at Founders Park with a ribbon cutting and first lap on …

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Fairhope's newest jewel: $2.5 Million Track and Field Complex promises safe training grounds for athletes


Fairhope High School track and field team members, coaches, city and school officials celebrated the completion of the Track and Field Complex at Founders Park with a ribbon cutting and first lap on the track Tuesday, Feb. 20.

The $2.5 million project was a collaboration between the City of Fairhope, Fairhope Single Tax Corporation and Baldwin County Public Schools. The Fairhope City Council awarded the contract to McElhenney Construction for $2.48 million in February 2023.

Fairhope Mayor Sherry Sullivan opened the ceremony by thanking all the students, coaches, city and school officials who were in attendance before making remarks on the new facility.

“We are so happy to be here today to dedicate the track. This is just another recreational facility that we are providing for the citizens of Fairhope and also the school system. It not only provides a place for us to compete with track and field but also a safe place for our residents to walk,” Sullivan said. “It takes teamwork for us to provide these facilities and takes all of us to keep these facilities nice and new.”

The eight-lane, 400-meter athletic track has a synthetic polyurethane surface, three long/triple jump runways, pole vault runway and landing pad, a javelin throw runway and concrete pads for discus and shot-put throw. The project also added a 47-space asphalt parking lot.

According to Sullivan, the only things remaining are the final additions which include bleachers, a new PA system and lighting.

During this project, Founders Park also got a new restroom building. While the restroom is complete, Sullivan said another area will be added to the restroom building that will add an office and a covered pavilion area.

Lee Turner, President of the Single Tax Corporation, credited Sullivan for getting the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation involved in the project.

“The mayor came to us and she said, ‘You know Fairhope has a state championship level track team.’ We said that’s great. Why are you here? She said, ‘We don’t have a track to run on,” Turner said. “We (Fairhope Single Tax Corporation) are set up here in Fairhope to try to make Fairhope a utopian community with projects like this to make this a better community.”

Fairhope High and Middle School indoor track and track and field team members were excited to participate in the ribbon cutting but more excited to have a safe place to train and hold home meets.

During Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler’s remarks, he commented that just over 10 years ago, the only high school in the system to have a track was Daphne High School. He went on to say that over the next few years, all high schools in the system will have a track.

When the Fairhope City Council approved the $2.5 million track project, the contribution breakdown showed that Baldwin County Public Schools would contribute, $250,000, Fairhope Single Tax Corporation $400,000 with the city making up the remaining $1.85 million.

Track Coach and Fairhope West Elementary teacher Marla Warner said she is happy to have a safe place for team members to train.

“This is my ninth year here and my sixth year as a coach and I always wondered why we didn’t have a track in our community. This is a big deal for the kids,” Warner said. “We have done tremendous things without having a track and I can not wait to see what it is going to be like having the facility to practice and be able to time things on an accurate playing field.”

Up to this point, the team trained on the grass practice field while cross country ran the streets in the community and sprinters practiced on the practice football field or the grassy area in front of the school. Warner said members of the community helped pour a concrete area for shot put to practice.

“If it wasn’t for the community and their support we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Warner said.

Warner also said she is happy the athletes and coaches won’t have to worry about sprained ankles and running into potholes.

“We now have a smooth surface where we can wear our spikes and utilize them which lightens the runner’s weight when they are running versus running in tennis shoes,” Warner said. “No more shin splints from running on the concrete. Now that we have the track, we can possibly eliminate some of those things.”

Gulf Coast Media spoke to a group of female athletes after their inaugural lap around the track. They are all excited about the new facility, but they all agreed they are most excited to be able to host home track meets.

“This means so much to me. I can finally practice on a track and get the actual feeling of everything. Seeing the joy of everybody means so much to me,” said ninth-grade runner Janiyh Poe. “This is going to help our team a lot.”

“It means a lot knowing we can have a home track finally,” said tenth-grade athlete Anaya Odom. “It feels nice. We can beat other teams at our home field and everybody can come and support us.”

“I get to run races on an actual track and beat people I know. When it’s not on your track the win is not as fun but when it is your home, it feels a lot more official,” said freshman athlete Aubrey Warner.

The athletes we spoke to are excited to have the community come out and support them like they do for other sports but make sure to follow the track rules. The track will be open to the community to use daily from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. but the city is serious about the rules. During her comments, Sullivan encouraged the students, coaches and community to help enforce the rules to protect the track surface and the $2.5 million investment.

Track and Field Facility Rules:
•     Run or walk counterclockwise.

•     Only tennis shoes or soft-soles shoes are permitted on track surface. No cleats are allowed.
•     No bicycles, skateboards, roller blades, skates, scooters, strollers, golf carts or any wheeled vehicle or toy is permitted on track surface.
•     No pets are allowed in fenced areas.
•     Water only is allowed inside the fenced area. No gum, tobacco or alcohol allowed.
•     Organized activity on the athletic field must be scheduled through the City of Fairhope Recreation Department. No practice or individual instruction without permission.
•     Do not climb on or over the fence or gates.
•     Walkers and joggers should use the outside lanes or lanes 5-8.

The facility is under video surveillance and violators of the rules will be prosecuted according to the sign.