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If your school’s running track is starting to show wear and tear or in obvious need for a brand new running track you want to make sure you begin your research process by finding the most qualified running track contractor.

Whether you are repairing an existing running track or planning to build a new one both decisions can lead to costly mistakes if not done correctly.

Here are some tips to point you in the right direction.Finding and Hiring the Most Qualified Running Track Contractor

What’s the difference between Running Track Contractors and General Contractors?

A Running Track Contractor specializes in the construction of athletic running tracks. This person is knowledgeable about the design, the construction, repairs, renovation and the maintenance requirements for an athletic running track and their various surfaces. They are knowledgeable about the industry’s standards and all measurements from the different governing bodies such as the IAAF, the USAT, NCAA, and the NFSHSA. General Contractors, by definition, are managers and possibly a tradesman who is hired by a client and acts as a manager to hire and coordinate subcontractors and is responsible for the overall coordination of a project.

Specialized and Qualified Running Track Contractors vs. General Contractors

Having been in the sports facility construction business for over 30 years, two questions that always comes up are, “How do I find the best company to build my running track project?” and ‘Should I hire a General Contractor?” There are many great general contractors in the market place, but using a general contractor as opposed to a specialized sports facility contractor, and more specifically, a running track contractor, can be a recipe for disaster in the construction of your hard fought for and won running track facility. Your running track should perform as designed, last as long as intended, and perhaps most importantly be safe for the athletes who will use the facility.

The Four Critical Components for constructing a high quality running track facility are:

  • The Synthetic Surface
  • Laser‐Controlled Asphalt Pavement
  • Laser‐Controlled Stone Base
  • The Drainage
These are all totally dependent upon each other for a successful installation, and if any are compromised then the whole facility is compromised. Many GC’s do not actually perform any of the critical components in running track construction. Most, if not all general contractors, do not have the expertise to spot inexperienced athletic facility designers, and are unable to recognize whether there is a problem with the specifications designed. Many, if not most, contractors that promote their companies as ‘Sports Facility” contractors, do not install the two most important components, which are the laser‐controlled asphalt pavement and the specified premium synthetic surface. Not only do they not install the critical components of running track construction, but in most cases the general contractor finds the least expensive subcontractors to perform the work “just good enough” to satisfy you, the owner.

Inexperience + Lack of knowledge + Lack of expertise = DISASTER

When a school has plans to enlarge its classrooms, cafeteria or gymnasium, many times the running track project is tacked on to the bid package so the entire job can be done in one fell swoop. This entire job is usually too large and expensive for a certified, qualified track builder, or specialty sports facility contractor to bid. Nor should any responsible sports facility builder bid on a project that is not their specialty. Usually a GC will bid on this large school project, with the addition of this highly complicated, specialized endeavor ‘add‐on’ of building a new running track project. Your running track should perform as designed, last as long as intended, and perhaps most importantly be safe for the athletes who will use the facility. In most cases, the GC will NOT look for the most experienced and competent qualified running track contractor, because his first order of business is naturally to maximize his own profit. If those two principles can be combined all is well, but if the cost is too high to hire the experienced running track contractor, you can bet the house that cost will determine who will perform the work. At stake for you is that this inexperience, lack of knowledge and expertise in top quality running track installation will always lead to substandard work with mistakes which will simply cost your school a lot more time and money to repair. My company recently bid on a running track‐ specific project with a city which has suffered myriad problems with their prior running track installation. The running track has never been right from its inception, and they have had to continually throw taxpayer money at the track for repairs to try and make it usable. The city finally put together a budget to correct the facility. After all the problems they have suffered, you would think that the track specifications included qualifications in the bid package that would ensure only qualified running track contractors could bid on this project. However, that was not the case. An inexperienced engineer was hired to write the bid documents, and failed to include specific running track qualifications requirements for the bidder. What this means is that a plumbing, electrical, drywall or roofing general contractor could legally bid and win this project with no concept of what it takes to construct the facility correctly and protect the taxpayer’s money. This City was heading exactly down the same irresponsible path as before. I see this happen all too often- inexperienced designers setting the table for any General Contractor to perform the work. Wouldn’t you be upset if you were a taxpayer in this city? Please check out this great article written by a writer from the American Sports Builders Association that explains the importance of this point. If you were paying for and building a new swimming pool in your backyard, would you hire a plumber as the contractor? If you were building a new home, would you hire an electrical contractor to do the job? Any responsible and intelligent person would hire the best qualified and affordable expert in that field to perform the work specified. In many instances general contractors hire a long string of subcontractors, at the cheapest price possible, to get the work done “just good enough”. Is that who you really want to use for maximum protection and value of taxpayer and fundraiser dollars? I hope not. You need a highly qualified running track contractor who will give you the greatest value for your taxpayers and fundraisers, resulting in a safe facility for your athletes to enjoy, and one that you can be proud of for many years to come.

Follow these points when planning your next Running Track project:

  1. Hire an Experienced Running Track Designer, Architect, or Engineer
  2. Include in the specifications specific Running Track Contractor Qualifications
  3. Hire a qualified running track contractor that installs all 4 Critical Components
  4. Make sure your running track is covered by a strong warranty

Q: Have you run into any of the problems I mentioned above? Let me know of any experiences you’ve had with building a sports facility. Share your comments and questions here.

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