Delaware's Indoor Track community has been without an in-state home for nearly a decade, but a group is trying to convince budget makers there is a profitable way forward with a Delaware facility.
The University of Delaware transitioned their Field House from an indoor track facility into a turf practice field in 2013, effectively turfing the only venue in Delaware capable of hosting an indoor track meet.
Chuck Klous, who has sons who have competed in pole vault in other events, said when the Field House went away, the odometers began to add up to reach competitions.
"Our kids frequently travel as far as 2-4 hours away on Saturdays and Sundays to compete during the winter sports season."
The nearest indoor track of any type to Wilmington is at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, with Snow Hill, Maryland outside of Ocean City housing a facility that has been used by the Henlopen Conference for competitions.
With a want to be able to have parents watch a multi-team event like the DIAA Championship, the DIAA was led to partner with the Prince Georges Sports and Learning Center located just outside of FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, home of the Washington Football Team.
All Delaware programs have a commute of at least 90 minutes to that event, with some having close to two hours. According to a study launched by Indoor Track Delaware, it is estimated Delaware indoor track teams spend $12,317 on travel costs to use out-of-state indoor tracks during the season when you include transportation, meals, and lodging.
Klous believes that money can be saved by creating a facility in Delaware, with the current plan to be a hydraulic-banked, 6-lane 200-meter track, similar to the one in Landover, with a footprint that would allow for more than just track.
"If we have a facility that can host multiple types of events, then it will be more economically viable than a track facility alone. That's why we are proposing a hydraulic banked track so it can be flattened and be used for other things when it's out-of-season for indoor track."
While Indoor Track Delaware has not settled on a final lay-out proposal, their goal is to have somewhere in the area of 10 basketball courts, which would then open it up as a home better suited to major events in multiple sports than the Bob Carpenter Center or Chase [76ers] Fieldhouse.
"Folks from the Beast of the East [wrestling tournament] have shared from us that if our facility was built, they could expand to more mats, more participants, and more economic impact."
Other groups have tried the multi-court layout, including the Delaware SportsPlex which failed in the Ogletown/Newark area.
"Where other facilities have gone wrong, the footprint simply hasn't been big enough to host the kind of tournaments that make an economic impact, and make these kind of facilities sustainable."
Klous would not provide a potential cost for the facility, saying that land-cost and the ultimate size of the venue will be key factors, although the University of Pennsylvania is currently building a $44 million indoor track venue with more limited seating that is scheduled to open in 2022.
In perspective, Salesianum just spent about $22 million to overhaul Baynard Stadium into Abessinio Stadium with an 8-lane outdoor track and 4,000-seat seating footprint, while the Buccini/Pollin Group combined with the 76ers on the $37 million Field House, but it appears Indoor Track Delaware is thinking even bigger.
"Our view is that if a venue can bring a $30-50 million annual economic impact, that will get the attention of lawmakers. I don't think anyone thinks this is a bad idea, but coupled with a positive economic impact on area hotels and restaurants, it will create jobs, and our idea has merit."
Spooky Nook, located in suburban Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which houses the U.S. National Field Hockey Team, was formed out of a 65-acre warehouse, but cost $144 million to build. That might be a considerably larger footprint than Indoor Track Delaware settles on.
Either way, Klous said it's not just Delaware's indoor track athletes who are currently homeless.
"Villanova has its home invitational in Staten Island, and the Philadelphia Public League Indoor Championships are held in Manhattan."
Klous said building designs and final decisions on their ultimate goals for the complex should be determined by the summer.
It may still be several years until indoor track athletes in Delaware find a home, and stop trekking to Landover, and beyond.