Mize Gets New Digs

The long-awaited reconstruction of Louisiana Tech's Jim Mize Track Complex is part of a larger effort at upgrading facilities across the department.

For longtime Tech track coach Gary Stanley, the project is more personal.

"Nobody wants to go home to hovel; you don't want to work in one," said Stanley, who has spent 25 seasons in Ruston, 18 of them as a head track coach. "The hardest day of the week is generally Monday, after coming back from places that have college-level facilities. This will eliminate that."

Athletic Polymer Systems, a California-based contractor, began a three- to four-month project this week that will include removing the current track then replacing it with a tarton overlay. First, workers are going to create a new under-surface, drilling deep enough to install a layer of stabilizing rock then six inches of asphalt.

The sparkling new track should do much, coaches say, not only to bring Tech in line with other opponents in its conference but also in luring the talent needed to continue to compete.

"It's going to help in recruiting," said longtime Tech track assistant Shawn Jackson, now in his 12th year as an assistant at his alma mater, coaching jumps, sprints and hurdles.

"But there's more to it; this new track will help rejuvenate the athletes and the coaching staff," Jackson added. "Your athletes get down, say, when it rains and the track doesn't drain the way it's supposed to. It's a pride issue."

Bobby Dowling, Tech's director of recreation, has said these improvements would cost $970,000, with funds generated from a student athletic fee and a bond issue for recreation.

The track project is another item on an impressive list of renovations across the Tech athletic spectrum.

Already, the J.C. Love baseball complex has received a new scoreboard and press box, while installation of a new state-of-the-art basketball floor and upgrades to the coaches' offices, video and locker rooms have taken place at the Thomas Assembly Center. Just to the southwest of the Mize track, a new tennis facility is rising.

Stanley credits an aggressive new plan created by school president Daniel Reneau for the university, and its athletics programs, called Tech2020.

"The track is a symbol of the renewed interest in athletics by the head guy at Tech," Stanley said. "Dr. Reneau is in his legacy period, and he is trying to make things happen as his long and illustrious career winds down."

Asked about the track project recently, Reneau said: "We've only just begun."

Added Tech athletics director Derek Dooley: "This is another step in the massive facilities facelift that needs to happen in our athletic department. The master plan will not only ensure compliance with gender equity issues, but will also allow our sports to competitively recruit against conference and regional rivals."

Stanley -- whose teams have claimed 16 championship trophies while participating in four different conferences -- is quick to point out that, for all of its value, the new track "won't help us win any meets."

Often the coaches would use the aging facility as a rallying point, painting Tech as the gritty underdog. That one goes out the window.

"Our old track was 400 meters," Jackson said, chuckling. "When they finish redoing it, it will still be 400 meters. You still have to go out there and compete. Now, we will have to come up with something else for motivation."

With the track season still ongoing, Tech will practice at other local facilities, including at nearby Ruston High. The Mize project, Stanley said, is slated for July completion.

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