After a round of delays, the Ranger Field renovation is beginning to make visible progress again. The project lost over 10 weeks in waiting for an excavation permit, as the renovation designs first needed stream-flow data and then approval from FEMA.
However, this was just the start of a parade of small delays. The construction crew discovered that the existing track was slanted, with the north side higher than the south. As the project requires that at least 18-inches of top soil be removed throughout the length the track, the crew had to remove three feet from the higher side of the field to ensure the track would be even. While doing additional digging, the renovation crew discovered more water and electrical lines underground than were expected, leaving them more stuff to work around.
The Ranger Field Renovation Committee (RFRC) has also had to make several other on-site adjustments, like having to expand the track to the south. The existing track was a 440-yard track and the new track is the regulation 400-meters, meaning the new track was larger and had to be repositioned. In addition, the long jump has continued to be a problem, as the first two placements ran into issues.
“We’ve moved the long jump for the third time now,” RFRC member Mike Welu said.
Regular rain has also slowed the project, forcing the crew to cease work entirely some days because of mud.
“We were in a drought right up until we started moving dirt,” Welu said. “As soon as we started moving dirt, it’s rained about every day.”
Welu explained that the renovation crew didn’t want to track mud through town and have to add cleaning the streets to the schedule or budget.
On the few rain-free Rally days, the project was still stalled, as the crew would’ve had to have stop traffic to haul loads of dirt to the Hill City Cemetery. The crew would’ve needed to drive on a section Main Street, as leaders of the RFRC were asked to refrain from driving trucks through the Sunset Creek Development on Major Lake Drive, due to its thinner layer of asphalt.
The construction workers finally began hauling away the topsoil early this week. After the dirt is gone, project engineer Andy Scull of Scull Construction estimates that 60 to 70 truckloads of engineered fill will be carted to the site each day.
Though this will really move the project along, the renovation now hopes to be mostly finished by the end of September.
“We’re trying to get a useable venue for the homecoming game on Sept, 23,” Welu explained.
A useable venue would mean all the dirt work was completed, the new restrooms and concessions buildings were constructed and the bleachers in place. After the homecoming game, Scull plans to asphalt the track and parking lot. The asphalt base on track has to sit for 30 days before the all-weather track surface can be put down, which will require consistent temperatures over 40 degrees during its installation. This would put the surfacing into mid-to-late- October but Welu believes this final step will be completed in the spring.
“We’re not going to count on consistent warm weather that late in the year,” he said. “I don’t have money to pay for the track surface now anyway. So it gives me another five or six months to continue to take donations.”
The project will continue as soon as there are consistent warm temperatures, but Welu hopes to complete the track by May 1.
“Hopefully, it’ll be done so the track runners can use it for a little bit of time,” he said.
It will take about a week and a half to install the all-weather track surface and paint on lanes and other markings.
But even just asphalted, Welu is confident the track will be a better running surface than before the Ranger Field renovation began.
“There’s no losing here,” he said.
As of Monday, August 22, approximately $770,000 in donations had either been received or pledged to the project, with the majority of that amount received. This leaves over $200,000 left to be raised to reach the project’s estimated $1 million cost.
“We still need to get the entire project paid for,” Welu said.
Several area businesses and organizations have brought the fundraiser closer to its goal over the last few weeks. The Black Hills Running Club donated $5,000 this year and will give another $5,000 in 2017. Neiman Enterprises will follow a similar program donating $50,000 in 2016 and another $50,000 next year. In addition, Black Hills Federal Credit Union donated $10,000, the South Dakota Community Foundation gave $15,000 and Black Hills Energy awarded a $25,000 grant from the Black Hills Corporation Foundation.
“We’ve had some great people who gave us donations on faith,” Welu said. “Well, now you don’t need faith. You can actually look at it and see we’re getting the job done. When we announced this fundraiser back in March, a lot of people doubted us and didn’t think it would happen. It was a very ambitious goal. Now, I hope people look and see the progress we’ve made … and it inspires them to get behind and support the project.”
Moving Dirt — After weeks of delays, the Ranger Field renovation finally began to haul away its extra topsoil to the Hill City Cemetery last week. From there, the city becomes the owner of the dirt and can resell it. [PN Photo/Kacie Svoboda]