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  • Writer's picturejfeeney23

Operating a Track and Field competition from a Football Press Box.

I was working with a small school in Southern Iowa, getting their electronic timing system up and running last week. The press box, located on the 50-yard line for football, was a total failure for the track and field competition.

As the computer timing operator sat down at their station, they were unable to see a single lane, of an eight-lane track along the home stretch. It also means they were unable to see the start for most races, except for a few that start on the backstretch, like the 200m and 1500m.

In order to see the starter for most races, the timing operator had to not only stand but lean close to the window in order to see the starter. As the races were finishing, the timing operator once again had to stand to observe the finish order and capture the image of the race. If the finishers were close, it was impossible to tell from the press box the correct finish order. If the camera image is poor, then the results can be a bit of a guessing game. There can be anywhere from about 40 races to over 100 races in an evening. That is a lot of getting up and down out of your seat, not to mention the stress it creates trying to see what is going on out on the track.

As the sun was setting and the evening grew darker, the lights in the press box were turned on. This created a glare on the windows, making it very difficult to read the hip numbers as athletes passed the press box for the distance races. We had to open the windows to see the hip numbers and the winds were quite strong once the sun set.

They build press boxes for baseball and softball that have 2 teams and about 30 athletes competing in the competition. Football also has 2 teams competing and accommodates about 60 plus athletes. Track and field competitions host anywhere from 3 to 30 teams and can range from about 60 athletes to several thousand depending on the type of competition.

The high school education system is about providing equal opportunity, experiences and building a well-rounded student-athlete. The system is not about alumni donations and catering to specific sports that bring television, media, and funding to the program.

It baffles me when the core of track competition all culminates at a 5 cm white line and provides athletic opportunities for hundreds or even thousands of competitors in a single day, that this is not taken into consideration when designing a press box or designing a press box specific for track and field. I was taught in design classes at Iowa State University that “Form follows Function”. This particular press box was comfortable but not very functional for track and field.

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