By Ian Froese
The best track in Steinbach was marked by a line of dirt.
Running around a small dent made in the grassy landscape, circling 400 metres, was where champions were made in school track meets, but that was about all it was good for. Those who ran sprinted elsewhere, as many other places in Steinbach did the job nearly as well.
But there’s no evidence of that seemingly makeshift track these days. It has been replaced by a six-lane asphalt track that finally gives Steinbach a regulation-sanctioned track. Built for this week’s Power Smart Manitoba Summer Games, it will be the lasting legacy of this multi-sport event decades from now.
“We would not have this track if we didn’t have the Games,” said Jason Peters, the city’s recreation programmer, matter-of-factly.
“It’s only going to be used for two days (this) week. If you just look at it that way, is it worth it? But the amount of seniors that come walking on here, or kids, or people on their bikes or skateboards, it’s massive that way, it goes way beyond sport, said Peters, who is overseeing athletic competitions during these Games as the Director of Sport.
The asphalt track, estimated to cost about $350,000, includes two sprint straightaways on opposite ends of the track so two 100-metre heats could be run simultaneously. There is also a pair of jumping pits and a berm constructed to give elevated audience sightlines. Many funds have also gone to improving drainage.
Peters explains the city has not had a regular track and field club, and he hopes this track will change that.
“We’d love it if in 10 years we still have an active track club because we now have a track to train on,” said Peters. “That’s a legacy that goes beyond what the facility is.”
Including the track and other infrastructure upgrades, Peters estimates a half million has been spent toward various improvements undertaken in advance of the Summer Games, a mix of cash and in-kind donations.
Diamonds #1 and #2 at A.D. Penner Park, the site of softball, have been overhauled. Both infields have been replaced and concrete floors were poured inside dugouts.
At the Steinbach Soccer Park, some of the beaten-up crease areas are re-sodded. Bleachers are set up, with some remaining at the park after the Games and others relocated to A.D. Penner Park for football crowds.
Swimming will be held at Steinbach Aquatic Centre’s outdoor pool, which has been outfitted with anchors to hold the starting blocks, new lane ropes and an installed false start system.
A few dugouts are now covered at Stahn Field in Mitchell, the baseball venue. Peters added that work has also been done to the infields and fencing.
Hosting a Summer Games encourages funds to be put toward recreation, said Peters, who adds such projects are not always pressing needs in a community.
Peters said he looks forward to visitors taking in these refurbished venues, as well as both the city and surrounding communities coming together to host these Games.
“Those of us that are proud of our community, it’s really exciting to have all these people come here and check out what Steinbach is all about,” he said. “Maybe some of these kids decide, ‘Hey, I really liked Steinbach, I had a great memory, I’d like to go back there.’”