When it came time to renovate the University of Alabama's Sam Bailey Track and Field Stadium, which first opened in 1975, Crimson Tide head coach Dan Waters had one directive for everyone involved in the project and that was to create a world class facility that would be comparable to nation's best facilities. Mission accomplished.
The Tide's home facility was rebuilt from the ground up, utilizing every inch of the facility to give Alabama track and field athletes everything they need to be successful at the highest level.
"It's a beautiful facility that is also highly functional," Waters said. "We took every inch of that space that we could and used it to the very best of our ability. I think the facility and everything that has gone into it makes a very definite statement that at the University of Alabama, we take our track and field very seriously."
The new design and layout ensures that the Sam Bailey Track & Field complex is one of the premier facilities in the nation.
"From the beginning coach Dan Waters' vision for the improvements was to give Alabama a facility that allowed them to compete and train at the highest level, both within the SEC and nationally," Jim Hartsell from Davis Architects said. "I don't think there is any doubt that's what we've accomplished."
The new nine-lane track has a state of the art Beynon BSS -2000 track surface, which allows for a faster and more durable surface for both competition and training.
"When you're talking about hundredths or thousandths of a second, the fact that we can train on this kind of surface means so much to our athletes," Waters said. "It's fast, but not so hard that you're going to risk injuries. We also widened the track, which lessens the centrifugal forces and makes it much faster."
The redesigned track gives Tide athletes a training and competition facility that is nearly identical to what they will see when they get to the championship season.
"This facility allows us to train every day in a championship calibre facility," Waters said. "Where ever we go during the championship season, our athletes have the confidence of know that their bodies are fine tuned to compete on just that kind of track, with the same surface and radius. Again, when you're hundredths of a second that can make a huge difference."
The shot put throw area was relocated and redesigned at the west end of the track, outside of the oval, combining the landing pits to provide a more functional and efficient throws area.
The infield was replaced with a new Tifway 419 hybrid Bermuda grass infield and provides the landing areas for the javelin, hammer throw and discus.
The cages for the throw events have been strategically placed with both "D zone areas" to allow for better meet management.
Timing locations have been added throughout the track area to allow for the use of the most current event timing techniques.
The redesign also relocated and reconfigured the jumps area to make both training and competition more efficient. There are now two long jump runways, two pole vault runways, two high jump aprons.
During the renovations, permanent lights were installed, giving the Crimson Tide far more flexibility when it comes to training and competition.
"With the way everything is configured now and with addition of the lights, we can run an efficient and fan-friendly meet," Waters said. "We can run a meet in four hours now instead of it being an all-day grind like it could be in the past."
In addition to the track renovations, the grandstand was upgraded with new seating and a complete renovation and expansion of the press box. The concession areas, restrooms and storage facilities were renovated and updated to better serve the needs of both the team and its fans.
A new entry plaza was also incorporated into the facility with displays to commemorate the history of Alabama track athletes, both in collegiate and Olympic competition. There is also a permanent awards area, created out of the same material as the track itself.