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Dr. J. on Running

Armory Track

Salt City Needs Track

Published December 4, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

At last week's annual convention of USA Track and Field, Craig Masback unveiled plans to relocate the National Track and Field Hall Of Fame. Masback, the Chief Executive Officer of USATF, the national governing body for track and field, distance running and racewalking, announced that the 168-th Armory in New York City will become the new home of the Hall of Fame in February 2002.

The Hall of Fame is currently located in Indianapolis, IN, the headquarters of USATF. A National Track and Field Library, hosted at nearby Butler University, provides an additional historical resource. Masback's announcement did not address the future of the library.

The surprise announcement to relocate the Hall of Fame away from USATF headquarters made a lot more sense with the choice of the Armory as the new site. Actually, it is evident that the Armory Foundation sought to bring the Hall of Fame to New York, not the other way round, making it the only sporting hall of fame in the City, and potentially the most visited sporting hall of fame in the world.

After the US Army closed its operations on 168-th Street, a group of visionaries saw an opportunity for the community and the sport. Led by Dr. Norbert Sander, a former winner of the New York City Marathon and a local physician, the Armory Foundation raised substantial amounts of public and private funds to convert the building. In a few short years, they transformed the weapons store into one of the world's finest indoor track facilities.

The success of the Armory Track can be qualified by the caliber of competition, and quantified by the number of events it attracts. In the dreary New York City winter, the Armory hosts over eighty track meets, almost one-a-day, ranging from open scholastic meets to elite invitational meets.

In addition to track meets, the Armory is open to local high schools for winter practice. Participating schools pay a nominal usage fee, and bring into the Armory an estimated 400,000 uses per year. Besides the track facility, the Foundation renovated several rooms in the building into community resources including a computer cluster and a guidance office.

I visited the Armory last March to help broadcast the National Scholastic Championship on the Internet. Fighting my phobia of big cities as we crossed the Hudson, I fell in love with the Armory the instant I set foot on its raised track. Overwhelmed by the hospitality of our southern neighbors, and enchanted by the spirited competition amidst the memories of past military glory, I returned home with a touch of envy.

In our Salt City that boasts of multiple track clubs and college teams, our indoor track schedule remains at the mercy of women's basketball. Isn't it time for us to look at every empty 20,000-square-foot structure and dream of a raised track and a thousand children running around it?

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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