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Public weighs in on proposed track and field at Legacy Park

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Public weighs in on proposed track and field at Legacy Park

City of Decatur and Breedlove Land Planning of Atlanta hosted an Open House to hear public comments on Legacy Park track and field project on Apr. 18.

This story has been updated. 

By Angela Walker, contributor 

Decatur, GA — Decatur Capital Projects Manager Hugh Saxon and architect Alan Wieczynski with Breedlove Land Planning listened to a room full of concerned citizens weigh in on a proposed track and field at Legacy Park during a meeting on Tuesday, April 18.

The city and Breedlove, which is overseeing the design, held the meeting at Legacy Park’s Hawkins Dining Hall.

Decatur plans to spend millions on the track and field project, which is jointly funded by the city and City Schools of Decatur. The city has committed up to $3 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding for the project, and the school district has committed $3 million in education special purpose local option sales tax (ESPLOST) funds.

“There is a lot of interest in having a first-class track and field facility right here in Decatur,” Saxon said. “There is a team of staff from the city of Decatur, Legacy Park, and City of Decatur Schools to manage the project’s design, planning, and construction. Ultimately, this collaborative effort will benefit students and the community.”

The planned design includes selective demolition, a new competition track and field facility, synthetic turf athletic field, lighting, a field house or comparable improvements to the existing gym, and stormwater management.

During the public comment discussion, questions and comments ranged from project completion timeline and design elements, such as:

— Safety.

One concerned parent mentioned that her son ran track and, unfortunately, had to practice running in the street. “Some kids may not get scholarships because they do not have the right facilities to practice and train correctly. He could be exceptional with the right facility.” 

— Field size.

Another concerned parent asked if the project design could maximize the field size for a soccer field.

“Oftentimes, track and field sizes are too narrow for soccer fields; the width should be at least 75 yards wide,” the parent said.

This parent also noted that creating pathways or walkways across the track would be helpful, which could minimize wear and tear. Another parent suggested a designated area where kids can warm up, which could provide a better experience for the kids. Breedlove principal, Wieczynski mentioned that the field could host events such as a 400-meter straight away, pole vault, long, high, and triple jump, and throwing. Saxon mentioned other benefits of the athletic field, including the ability to host multiple sports, such as football, lacrosse, soccer, and a baseball practice field – for various ages.

— Concession and ticket areas.

During the meeting, someone asked if there would be a concession stand and ticket area. Saxon mentioned that a concession area, run by volunteers, was included in the preliminary plans, but a ticket stand was not included. 

— Picnic and shade spaces (including hammock areas)

Several comments were made about access to shade areas around the field. Other parents requested grass and terrace areas where people can bring their lawn chairs, blankets, or tents. Wieczynski mentioned that he would add hammock areas into the design.

— Seating and storage capacity

A request for universally accessible seating, including wider stands that could accommodate wheelchair access, was noted. Also mentioned was a need to store equipment, such as landing pads, discus stages, pole vaults, and materials for maintenance and operations in a locked facility. 

— Ability to host various sports and community activities

One of the benefits of building a first-class track and field facility in Decatur is that it could bring more dollars to feed into more programs, as one parent suggested. 

During the meeting, another parent asked if the track and field portion of the project could be completed first.

Wieczynski explained, “The track is almost the last thing that goes in. It’s the infrastructure that goes around the track, including construction, utilities, lighting, footings, sewage, and building construction or renovation. It’s not a practical way to get a project done as quickly as possible.”

City of Decatur resident John Ellis’ son ran track at Decatur High School and needed a place to train.

“It was a struggle for the team to find a safe place to practice in the city,” Ellis said.

Cross Country coach Tramell Smith of Decatur High School echoed Ellis’ concerns.

“Sometimes, we have practice in three different locations within five days. It’s challenging to create the level of consistency we need to compete at a high level when we have to travel to so many places to practice each week,” Smith said.

The public will have two additional opportunities to provide suggestions for the design plans. The second opportunity for the public to provide feedback is during the City of Decatur’s Food Truckin’ Tuesday event held on Tuesday, May 16, from 5-8:00 p.m. The third opportunity is on Tuesday, Jun 13, from 6-8 p.m. in Hawkins Dining Hall.

After public comment, project planners at Breedlove will again meet with the City of Decatur and Decatur City Schools to determine design feasibility based on feedback.

Project planners are working on an aggressive timeline to complete the multi-phase project. The project will take approximately eight to 12 months, from design approvals and permitting to contractor selections and construction. The goal is to meet the needs of the community, city, and school and have the new Legacy Park track and field facility available by Spring 2025.

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