The long-awaited nine-lane all-weather running surface on the Payson High School track is projected to become a reality late this summer.
The Stadium Improvement Project Committee which has been working more than two years on acquiring the surface will ask the PUSD Governing Board at its next meeting for permission to begin accepting bids to construct the new track.
According to Payson High School Athletic Director Dave Bradley, the ceremonial turning of the first shovel could be held in May. If there are no summer monsoons to slow construction, the track would be finished by late summer, Bradley said.
Former Payson High School track and field coach Dan Reid, who has lobbied for a state-of-the-art facility since the mid-1980s, is elated the project is finally being undertaken.
Although current PHS track coach Chuck Hardt has seen the project delayed several times, he's cautiously optimistic the new track is just over the horizon.
"I think they have the money," he said.
Most of the funds to construct the track will come from the Credit for Kids tax program and a $150,000 donation from the Tonto Apaches. The tribe made their donation last summer, earmarking the money for the all-weather surface. In making the donation the largest contribution ever awarded by the tribe or received by the school district the Tonto Apaches said they hope the new facility will attract amateur track and field teams to the Rim country.
Although, the tribe sponsors one of the most successful youth track teams in Arizona, locals seldom have the opportunity to see it compete. Because no amateur meets are held locally, the team must travel to Phoenix and Tucson for competition.
With a state-of-the-art running surface, Payson would be in a position to host meets of its own, tribe officials said.
Hardt and Reid also have long contended that an all-weather surface would allow Payson to host bigger and better meets, including regional and state high school competitions.
In the late 1970s and '80s, Payson built a reputation for hosting some of the finest small school meets in Arizona. But, as the dirt running surface on the PHS track deteriorated, fewer and fewer teams wanted to come to Payson.
Last year, Payson hosted only one meet and that was a middle school competition. The annual Payson Rotary Invitational, which was once a highly competitive premier meet, was moved to Apache Junction.
Also in the improvement project is the construction of a new football stadium and bleachers.
Bradley said the school district has not yet raised enough money to finish the stadium renovation.
"We're still looking for that (money)," he said.
Overseeing the construction of the new surface will be Phoenix-based project consultant Greg Hull.
Hardt and Reid said they both had complete confidence that Hull had the expertise to see the project through to its finish.
Hull was not available for comment by press time.