Fill material used in the 1990s when a section of the Russell High School track was relocated probably is responsible for damage that has made the track unusable for competition, school officials say.
The damage has kept the school’s track program from scheduling home meets and forced it to cancel or relocate regional meets.
Replacing the track would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and removing the fill would cost thousands more, officials said.
The damage is concentrated in the south portion of the track, which rings the football field, said Dennis Chambers, the district’s finance officer. Five of the eight lanes are cracked and warped both horizontally and vertically, he said.
Engineers believe the damage was caused by slag used as fill in that section, which was relocated in the early 1990s from in front of the visiting bleachers to behind the bleachers.
Slag is a byproduct of the steelmaking process and was used because it was free, Chambers said. However, the material absorbs water and swells; the resulting upward pressure cracks the surface.
Moreover, engineers say the swelling is unlikely to stop so any resurfacing without removing it would be temporary at best.
The slag was used to a depth of about 28 feet.
The school board would prefer to have it removed and put in a complete new track. But the single bid so far for a track is around $500,000, and the same company entered a separate bid for removing the slag at $113 per square yard, Chambers said.
A new track could go in a different location but the football field is preferable because it already has seats, lighting and a sound system.
If the slag is left in place a temporary fix could keep the track usable for a few more years but eventually the material probably will have to be removed.
In the meantime, three lanes of the track remain open for community use after school hours. However, the track team isn’t hosting any meets there this season, athletic director Sam Sparks said. It typically hosts six to eight home meets per year and one or two regional meets.
The Red Devil Relay meet, which Russell has hosted for four decades, will be at the Paul G. Blazer track this year, Sparks said.
Losing regional meets puts a hole in the track budget, which depends on gate revenue for some of its funding, Sparks said. It also is hard on team members, particularly seniors, who want to compete on their home track, he said.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2652.