Mará Rose Williams | Agreement to share track looks like a win-win

Mará Rose Williams
Mará Rose Williams

The student athletes you might see running on the new track at St. Teresa’s Academy could be Kangaroos who jogged over from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The university and the Catholic high school have an agreement that will allow UMKC track and field athletes to practice at St. Teresa’s for the next 30 years.

What about the track the university built two years ago in the $9 million Stanley H. Durwood Stadium, smack in the heart of the Volker campus?

Well, it doesn’t meet NCAA standards, and the university knew that when it was being constructed, said Bob Simmons, vice president for facilities at UMKC.

UMKC opted to build it anyway because what school officials actually were after was a new men’s and women’s soccer field with locker rooms and fan seating. And that’s just what they got at Durwood Stadium, which is on Cherry Street across from the Student Union.

But with the soccer field’s NCAA dimensions, there wasn’t space for a qualifying eight-lane track.

So until now, the college’s track and field athletes have practiced at Rockhurst High School or junior-college-level schools, and that has meant transporting students.

Simmons said St. Teresa’s, which last year built a parking lot that caused friction with residents who were unhappy about losing park-like green space on campus, was looking for an opportunity to enhance its grass athletic field on the north side of campus near 56th and Main streets.

“We needed a new soccer field and they needed a track,” said Nan Bone, president of St. Teresa’s.

The result was a $2.4 million field. The rent that UMKC pays helps cover the cost of the new track and field facility.

St. Teresa’s will use the field for soccer, lacrosse and softball. It also will be used by some nearby elementary schools and by the community on weekends.

Part of the St. Teresa’s-UMKC agreement is that the college athletes will jog to the track using the time as their warmup and cooldown, Simmons said.

Bone said she made it clear to the university that St. Teresa’s would not be able to accommodate any extra vans, buses or student cars in the high school’s lot or on the residential streets around the school.

“I would say that 90 percent of the neighbors are excited about it,” Bone said. “We want this to be a community track.”

She said decisions not to light the field, extend the bleachers or include loudspeakers were made as “good neighbor” choices.

The college has to pay for the use of the track, but it declined to say how much it is costing. Simmons said, though, that it’s not costing UMKC any more to use St. Teresa’s than it did to transport students and pay rent at facilities farther away.

What UMKC pays in rent, Bone said, “helps us to pay for the track. It made a perfect marriage.”