The six-lane Curtis Elder Track and Field at CHS is too small for the high school to host meets. An eight-lane track is scheduled to open in the same location in 2018. Credit: Credit: Josh Mandell, Collectbritain

The city of Charlottesville is accepting bids from contractors for a long-awaited track and field facility at Charlottesville High School.

“The economy and City Council’s budget have finally allowed us to do this,” said Juandiego Wade, chairman of the Charlottesville City School Board. “It will be tremendous for us to host track and field events again.”

The six-lane Curtis Elder Track and Field at CHS is too small for the high school to host meets. Parts of the track’s rubber surfacing have been worn down to the concrete foundations, as well.

Mark Lorenzoni, co-founder of Ragged Mountain Running Shop, said the outdated design of the track can cause runners to lean heavily on one side while rounding curves, making them more vulnerable to stress injuries.

“The track has been slowly and steadily declining, as far as its function and use,” Lorenzoni said.

CHS has not hosted a track and field meet in seven years.

“CHS deserves to have a first-class facility,” Lorenzoni said. “This project shows that the city schools and Charlottesville High School are committed to the sport of track.”

Along with a new eight-lane track in the same location, plans for the facility include bleachers for 400 spectators, new restrooms and LED lighting that will enable nighttime use. A new area for field events will be added near the bleachers.

Wade said the track will be open to the public when it is not being used by the high school and its sports teams.

“We wanted to keep it as a community resource,” Wade said. “We think we have enough security and safety measures in place.”

The site plan shows the track surrounded by a fence with eight gates. Tim Breitenbach, project manager for the city, said he expected that these gates will remain unlocked.

The track replacement is listed as a $1,666,200 expense in Charlottesville’s capital improvement program for the 2018 fiscal year. The city spent an additional $100,000 on the project this year for civil engineering and design work from Timmons Group and Thrive Architecture.

Construction bids for the track replacement are due by May 16. Work is scheduled to start by Aug. 31, with an anticipated completion date of Jan. 31, 2018.

“Prices are going up nationwide for contracted work, but we are doing okay so far,” Breitenbach said.

“If bids are low enough, the track could have some extra amenities,” said Wade. “If not, we may have to cut some things out.”

Wade said that lighting for the track would likely be the first feature cut from the project if it went over budget.

“While it would not be easy, it is not uncommon for lights to be added later,” Wade said.

Breitenbach said the city scheduled construction for after the summer — when contractors see their highest demand for school improvement projects — in hopes of getting lower bids.

CHS athletic director Rodney Redd said the construction would prevent sports teams from practicing on the field inside the track this fall.

“We’re going to have to be creative for the football and field hockey seasons,” Redd said.

The new facility also will be named after the late Curtis Elder, who coached the Black Knights to seven state track and field championships and accumulated more than 250 victories.

“Charlottesville has a long, strong tradition in track and field,” said Redd. “It will be nice to finally have a facility that lives up to that tradition and will serve the community for some time to come.”

Redd said that the new track could generate revenue for the city as a venue for championship meets for high school athletic conferences from throughout Virginia.

The city of Charlottesville has yet to allocate funds for a proposed renovation of the athletics field-house at CHS. This year’s budget included $100,000 to finish design work for the fieldhouse.

“We need to upgrade the fieldhouse … but we understand that we have to prioritize,” said Wade.

A pre-bid meeting for contractors will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday at CHS.

Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.