JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
BURNET — Now that the installation of synthetic turf and a new track at Bulldog Field will begin April 6, the Burnet school district athletic department has made adjustments to practices for track-and-field runners.
Construction is scheduled to begin two weeks earlier than originally planned to keep the 2015 Burnet High School graduation ceremony in the district’s largest outdoor venue. Burnet Consolidated Independent School District officials were planning to move the ceremony to the gym, limiting the number of tickets available to family and friends.
With the construction happening during the track season, distance runners and sprinters will practice on the dirt track surrounding the football team’s varsity practice field, located near Burnet Middle School.
Relay runners and hurdlers, who number 15-20, will be bused to a neighboring school, which looks to be Lampasas, two times a week, athletic director Kurt Jones said.
Field athletes are not affected because their practice areas are located at the subvarsity practice fields.
“We can do a lot of work on our practice fields,” Jones said.
Unlike other sports, runners usually don’t spend two hours each day practicing. So it’s possible relay runners and hurdlers will spend as much time on a bus going to and from Lampasas as they do on the track.
Safety and training are the main reasons relay runners and hurdlers will need to practice at another school. As hurdlers step over a hurdle, they must have a firm surface on which to land as they three-step or four-step during a race. Each hurdle is set up according to marks on the track surface. Relay runners must be in sync because of baton handoffs, which have to take place inside a designated marked area on the track.
“It’s not the most convenient thing in the world,” Jones said. “So we ask how do we affect the least number of kids and inconvenience the least amount.”
The projected date of completion for the synthetic turf and track is late July in time for the start of football training camp. The varsity will welcome Llano in mid-August for a scrimmage, and Jones said it will be played at Bulldog Field.
On March 25, BCISD officials announced the 2015 graduation ceremony would be moved to the gymnasium. Each senior would be given eight tickets for family and friends. A simulcast of the event would have been played in the auditorium for all other attendees.
But officials never stopped working with Symmetry Turf, the company hired to install the turf and track, to find a way to keep the ceremony at Bulldog Field, BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett said.
So two days later, BCISD announced the ceremony would be kept at the stadium and that construction would begin two weeks earlier than the original start date of April 20, which was four days after the regular track-and-field season ended.
Symmetry Turf will put dirt on the playing field to provide “a flat, level, dirt field for graduation at the stadium.” The cost of that feature was $12,000. But Symmetry Turf decided to do that at no cost, McBurnett said.
Jones said people had offered solutions prior to Symmetry Turf’s announcement of providing dirt for the graduation ceremony such as starting the stadium construction in June and asking Marble Falls Independent School District officials to host the varsity football game in back-to-back years. The two teams will face each other Aug. 28.
But those options were not feasible for a few reasons, Jones said.
First, officials want to ensure that extra construction days are available in case they’re needed because of possible delays.
While moving the season opener to Mustang Stadium would address the varsity team, that move would not accommodate a home playing venue for several Burnet Middle School and subvarsity football games, which are played on Thursdays.
Second, the August varsity game is the only home contest before the Bulldogs have three consecutive road matches. Burnet’s next home game is against Taylor, which also is the homecoming contest, on Sept. 25.
And third, home football games generate revenue for school districts and their communities, helping athletic booster clubs, the band boosters, Project Graduation and other organizations that market items to fans through concessions, clothing or prize drawings. In addition, visiting teams and fans purchase gas, food and other needs that help local restaurants and stores. With only four home games, that affects these organizations’ opportunities to raise money.
“It only takes one small change to affect so much,” Jones said.