Fort Hays State University moved its tribute to coach Alex Francis forward Saturday in dedicating its new track and field facility.
The $3.28 million facility was completed in December, and it hosted three track and field events in the spring. The facility includes a nine-lane, 400-meter all-weather track and a complement of field event areas. It also includes a press box and bleacher seating for 500 on the east side, which was full of FHSU students, faculty and staff, Hays Area Chamber of Commerce members and FHSU fans from the community for the dedication.
It was the second such event for FHSU in as many days. On Friday, the university dedicated the Robbins Banking Institute in McCartney Hall.
Until the completion of the facility, track and field events were conducted at Lewis Field Stadium, where the track also honored Francis.
A kiosk at the new facility outlines Francis’ 34-year career at FHSU, which included 17 track and field conference titles and four cross country national titles.
The new stadium is, said former head track coach Dennis Weber, a rarity among college facilities.
“In 21 years, I’ve seen a lot of track facilities around the United States, and I can’t really recall Division II facilities that are track-only, more importantly Division I where you can stand up in the bleachers and see every event,” he said.
Newly named head track and cross country coach Jason McCullough and Interim FHSU President Andy Tompkins also spoke at Saturday’s ceremony, and the chamber conducted a ribbon cutting.
There still are some improvements to come, said Curtis Hammeke, FHSU director of athletics. Those include an electronic monitor and lighting, and honors for other FHSU track and field coaches.
The stadium also includes a memorial of a plaque and javelin for FHSU alumnus Zach Kindler, who died in 2014 at the age of 35. Kindler was an All-American javelin thrower while at FHSU and started his coaching career as a graduate assistant for Weber. He was track and cross country coach at Baker University when he died.
The new facility came about from the growth on the main campus, Hammeke said. In the last year, FHSU has added three new buildings, including two residence halls near Lewis Field.
“We had to make a decision. We were paving the parking lots in front of those residence halls north of Lewis Field. Obviously no one wanted to leave Lewis Field, but we lost all those field events out there,” he said.
“Our thought process was it was very important to keep our field events at the same location as our track. Now we have a great place that our track and field athletes can call our own.”
Kelly Wycoff, an FHSU senior and track and field athlete, echoed Hammeke’s statement.
“Being among the first athletes to be able to train and compete here, it’s our responsibility to set the expectation,” she said. “So we will appreciate this track, and we will take care of it, and we will take pride in it.”