Soldiers Field Track

I had the opportunity to attend the Parks Board Meeting last night and have some thoughts to share and some ideas moving forward. I have long believed an engaged community is a resilient community. The Rochester Track Club and friends have certainly been engaged and there are mutually beneficial paths forward. The only reason there is even a discussion now is because of the work of the RTC. The step taken last night was simply to get some bids. That is all… Bids can be rejected should a better option exist.

I do want to acknowledge that fine work done by Shaun Palmer, Cindy Morgan and others.

The Mayor’s office and the Rochester City Council need to do a better job preparing boards to be successful. Mayor Norton has already brought needed professionalism to the appointment process. We need to do more training for members and in particular better inform the boards of their roles and powers. Sometimes a lack of confidence leaves boards leaning on staff for policy decisions when that is really their role. We should place a special emphasis on training board chairs on the various techniques they can use to both engage the public, but still control meetings.

The Parks Department has been vilified by some, but they are really just doing their job. They are cautious because the City has a long history of not funding maintenance. They want a track that can be used for recreation, used for festivals, and be maintained at minimal expenses. The asphalt approach does this, but results in an inferior track for runners. The change in size also is primarily being driven to accommodate a pool that is past its useful life. The Parks Department is concerned about durability, maintenance costs, construction costs, and the response of the Council. These are all reasonable concerns, and should be addressed. I believe these can be addressed. As of the meeting last night, these concerns had not been addressed well enough to assure staff.

In watching the Parks Board, I got the feeling that they had a fear that changing course would result in being penalized by the Council, that is not the case. The City Council authorized 1 time funds for needed park maintenance. We did not do so with threat of a deadline. We did not specify how the maintenance would be done. We (or at lease I) have no wish to micromanage the Parks Board.

While there is now action being taken to gather bids there is no rule that alternate proposals can’t be put together. This is where the RTC and other supporters can find opportunity. What is needed is a credible proposal for an alternate design which reasonably addressed the risks.

Suggested RTC Actions:

  • Put together an alternate bid that would cover the full reconstruction costs.
  • Contact product manufacture and gather product warranties. A manufacture warranty would go a long ways towards alleviating fears.
  • Establish budget and plans for any shortfalls or maintenance reserves.
  • Evaluate vehicle support pads for trucks adjacent to track or in just key locations around track.
  • Include drainage plans to allow proper sloping.
  • Create an ongoing partnership with the Parks Department.

If these other issues are address, the only matter that would remain would be keeping the 400 meter size, at that shouldn’t be to hard since the pool is past the end of it expected life. Conversely, we could learn that either costs or materials make this approach not viable, either way it doesn’t hurt to investigate options.


  1. Michael, appreciate your attendance at the meeting and your suggestions. We are on that path. Gwen Jacobson

  2. I don’t understand this line: “The change in size also is primarily being driven to accommodate a pool that is past its useful life. ” There is a building between the track and the pool. Plans for a new pool shouldn’t affect the size of the track, unless the building will be modified, or there are competing plans for space north of the building.

    1. I saw a Facebook post. The change in size isn’t about the pool, but about the retaining wall between the track and the building.

  3. Thank you for putting together this thoughtful summary and recommendation. I don’t run, golf, or play tennis, but I believe having these centrally located recreational opportunities makes Rochester a better place for all of us.

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