Franklin Field is going to look a little bit different the next time you visit the historic stadium for a Penn track meet or the Penn Relays next spring. That is because the facility has just finished a $3 million facelift that has converted the track, horizontal jumps, and pole vault layout to be more in-line with international standards and more flexibility in varying weather conditions. The construction closed down the facility this past summer and was reopened yesterday. If you followed Penn Track&Field/XC, Penn Relays, or PennAthletics on Twitter, you got occasional photo updates of the construction progress. PA Milesplit is sharing a number of photos from the reopening ceremony yesterday
Penn Relays director and friend of HepsTrack Dave Johnson expressed with Philly.com yesterday how there would love to be able to bid on other large scale meets, like NCAA Championships, USATF National Championships, or even a Diamond League international meet.
“It would not be an easy sell, because we have a synthetic infield,” Johnson shared with Philly.com, referring to the SprinTurf surface on which Penn’s football team plays. “You have to bid for those events, and you have standard facilities that are in the bidding process. We’re going to have to come up with something particularly special to win hearts and minds and have a major championship event in here.”
Editor’s note: if some of this sounds familiar, perhaps you are thinking of this article we published at the end of March 2015. It definitely got a lot of fans discussing of the possibility of Franklin Field hosting NCAAs, and from what we heard, it caused a bit of an uproar in the Penn Athletics department when they heard about it…
Part of the track resurfacing project allowed for the reconstruction and correction of the stagger start for the inside track lanes. The end result has a total of nine lanes that go completely around the track, six of which meet international regulations (which are now marked as lanes 4 through 9). The infamous rail that used to lie between lanes 4 and 5 has now been moved to the edge of lanes 3 and 4, marking the edge of the international regulation lanes.
The major change that will draw mixed emotions in the track layout is the location of the steeplechase water pit. The water pit was previously outside of the track in the northeast corner – now, it lies inside the track in the southwest corner in order to comply with international standard on track layout. It was always a fan highlight on Thursday night of the Penn Relays for those in attendance to gather by the water pit and cheer on the runners and “squeegee” guys who mopped up the water on the track while those events were underway. This modification changes the finish line for the steeplechase so that it matches up with the other individual track events and allows for two complete 100m straightaways.
Other modifications were done for the horizontal jumps and pole vault pit and runways. The horizontal jump runways were extended to allow for a longer approach, while the pole vault location was adjusted so that it now lies at the 50 yard line and now accommodates two pits so athletes can gain a favorable wind when they compete.
Johnson is anticipating that there will be plenty of fast times and amazing performances come April 2016 for the 121st edition of the Penn Relays. “The times have always improved anytime we have resurfaced,” said Johnson to PA Milesplit. “But this is more than a resurfacing. This is a complete retooling from the bottom up. So I expect times that we haven’t seen on this track… if we have weather like this [70 degrees and sunny], then the times will be terrific.”
photo from Penn Relays twitter