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Introducing 'the best track in the world'



COURTESY: BEYNON SPORTS SURFACES - Track and field fans got a good look at the indoor track built for the U.S. and World Indoor championships during some high-performance meets at the House of Track in Northwest Portland.When TrackTown USA boss Vin Lananna spoke to John Beynon about constructing the track to be used for the U.S. and World indoor championships in March, the marching orders were direct.

“Vin said he wanted a fast track — the best track in the world,” says Beynon, president of Beynon Sports Surfaces, a division of Tarkett, an international flooring company based in France. “With our experience in building facilities, we knew what it would take. We came up with what we feel is going to be the fastest indoor track in the world.”

The finished product was auditioned during four high-performance meets in January and February. They were held on consecutive Friday nights at the House of Track, a 100,000-square-foot, city-owned warehouse in Northwest Portland used to store the green, synthetic-surfaced track in preparation for the two major events at the Oregon Convention Center.

When the Friday high-performance and Saturday developmental meets were over, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s a really fast track,” says distance runner Andrew Wheating, a two-time Olympian. “Normally, the banks are either flat or too high. This one has just the right grade (10 degrees to the outside edge), where I’m not falling to the infield or being thrown outside. The guys at Tracktown got it just right.”

“The color is really cool,” says sprinter Jenna Prandini, like Wheating a former University of Oregon runner. “I’ve never seen a green track before. It’s fast and very comfortable to run on.”

“I run faster on harder surfaces,” says another ex-UO sprinter, English Gardner. “The track I train on at UCLA is a little bit softer. This was different, but it’s what we need for fast times. I felt fast on this track. It will call for some crazy times at Worlds.”

“I like it more and more as I work out and race on it,” says Olympic distance runner Matthew Centrowitz, a member of the Nike Oregon Project group that has held training sessions at the facility. “I’ve run on a lot of indoor tracks. Is this one the fastest in the world? It certainly has the potential.”

Beynon (pronounced “buy-nun”), 68, lives in Baltimore. His company is based in suburban Baltimore, but its West Coast office is located in Tualatin. Beynon’s first company, Martin Surfacing, was founded in 1974. Beynon Sports was purchased by Tarkett when it started a sports division in 2008. FieldTurf is Tarkett’s international brand for artificial turf.

Over the years, Beynon Sports has handled more than 2,000 jobs for track surfacings, nearly all of them for outdoor tracks. The company has done all the Hayward Field resurfacings since 1995.

“We’ve built 10 of the tracks in the Pac-12,” says Rob Gloeckner, a Beynon Sports vice president who works out of the Tualatin office. “In the last two years, we’ve done Oregon State, Willamette, Lewis & Clark and Mount Hood (Community College). We’re going to do Linfield next year.”

Beynon Sports also is contracted to handle the resurfacing of the Hayward Field track for the World Oudoor Championships in 2021.

Beynon and Lananna go back 35 years, to when Lananna was track and field coach at Dartmouth.

“We did the track for him there,” Beynon says. “We did one for him when he was at Stanford. We did one for him at Oberlin.”

Beynon had also done one for Lananna’s predecessor as coach at Oregon, Martin Smith.

“After Vin took the job, he called and said he was interested in putting some track surfacing in the west grandstands (at Hayward),” Beynon recalls. “I said, ‘Great. I’ll get you a good price.’ He said, ‘You don’t understand. I want this for free.’

“We worked it out. We wanted to be in a good position with the university. Anything at Hayward Field is a good investment.”BEYNON

Last year, Lananna called Beynon again.

“We’re thinking of putting in a bid for the World Indoor Championships,” Lananna told Beynon. “Would you be interested in supplying us with a track and leasing it to us?”

“It took me all of three seconds to say yes,” Beynon says.

Lananna says Beynon Sports’ prices are competitive with other track builders, but the company’s credentials are priceless.

“Strong business relationships come with those who have the integrity to do what they say they’re going to do, in the time they say they’ll do it, with the quality they say they’ll provide,” Lananna says. “That’s what John is about.”

TrackTown USA got the bid for the U.S. and World Indoors, and Beynon Sports took the job, agreeing to a leasing fee of $250,000. Beynon would not give a price of the cost of the track, saying only it is “in the millions.” One report said the cost was $4 million.

Part of the agreement with Tarkett was for Beynon Sports to find a buyer of the track once the World Indoor Championships are completed. The University of Iowa announced last March it had bought the track for $2.6 million.

Beynon Sports representatives would not confirm the sale.

“Iowa has given us a purchase order to buy the track,” Gloeckner says. “The when and logistics of everything haven’t been determined as of yet.”

Beynon, meanwhile, seemed to leave the door open to the track staying in Portland. He says he has met with Nike representatives, who don’t have a Portland-area indoor training facility for the company’s elite athletes.

“Nike, or the city of Portland, have shown interest in purchasing it and are talking about keeping it at the House of Track,” Beynon says.

But Tinker Hatfield says the issue has not gone beyond interest, at least from Nike’s standpoint.

“There has been discussion, but only between Vin and I,” says Hatfield, Nike’s vice president of design and a former University of Oregon pole vaulter.

Hatfield, who helped Lananna locate the warehouse used to store the track, says he would be in favor of making the House of Track a permanent site.

“It’s a fantastic idea,” Hatfield says. “Those of us interested in local sports and in the sport of track and field would love to see that happen.”

The warehouse is owned by the city’s Bureau of Environmental Services. It had been sitting as an empty building for some time. The idea of making it a permanent facility for indoor track appeals to city administrators.

“But we just started talking about it,” says Diana Nunez, the city’s community outreach director. “The city is interested in finding ways to have gathering places for the community. It’s been really fun to see the community come together and use the track and the building. It’s something we’d consider, but it would have to go through a negotiations process with BES.”

Lananna says he has nothing to do with any negotiations for a business deal, but would love to see the track stay at the House of Track and become a place where youngsters, in particular, could participate in the sport year-round.

“The state of Oregon should have an indoor track,” he says. “There’s an opportunity for that to happen. I hope it’s something that gets some legs.

“It’s not so much about the track; it’s the building, and the building is owned by the city. It would be a great opportunity to provide access to a sport for a bunch of kids, another season for athletes to participate in the sport of track and field.”

The track is the fourth indoor track for Beynon Sports, “and the first portable banked track we’ve done,” says Drew Beynon, John’s son and the company’s chief operating officer. “This is a specialized type of application in that it can be portable. The surface is what makes it special. It has an extremely high resilience, and the feel on the (runners’) feet is outstanding.”

The track was built at the Northwest Portland warehouse over a period of five weeks beginning in November. The entire operation weighs 200 tons and covers 40,000 square feet.

The challenge of building the track was made more difficult by inclement weather and because the floor of the warehouse was unlevel, which required inserting shims beneath the track to balance the floor.

The galvanized steel frame, which weighs more than 100 tons, was designed in Estonia and constructed by the company that had provided the base for the track used at the European and Russian indoor championship events. It took the company six weeks to build the frame and another four weeks for it to be shipped from Estonia to Long Beach, Calif., from where it was trucked in pieces to Portland.

Plywood was laid over the steel frame, and a three-quarter-inch Baltic birch synthetic surface was poured over the plywood.

“Once the steel frame went down, a shock-absorbing pad was installed that adhered to the plywood, what we call a ‘sound attenuation pad,’” Beynon says. “That’s so when the runner is running on it, you don’t get reverberation like a drum effect.

“On top of that, we sealed the pad and put our Beynon BSS 2000 system down with Hobart texture. The granules are locked in place with a special soft binder that we make. It’s a synthetic rubber, called ‘EPDM granules,’ for the polyurethane surface that goes on top of the pad.

“How can you put a poured surface on an incline? We’ve been doing it for years. We have a procedure that allows us to install it on a bank and still maintain our uniform fitness across the surface from the inside edge to the outside.”

Early in February, the track was disassembled into 1,400 pieces and moved to the Oregon Convention Center, where it will be reassembled as a six-lane, 200-meter banked track (with a 160-meter warmup track) for use at the U.S. Indoors on March 11-12 and at the World Indoors a week later.

This is the second time in history the World Indoors have been held in the U.S., joining Indianapolis, the host site in 1987. Lananna says the International Association of Athletics Federations has received the largest number of preliminary entries ever for a World Indoors.

Additionally, the Portland Indoor Track Classic will be held in conjunction with the U.S. Indoor championships, with close to 800 high school athletes from throughout the country expected for a two-day competition.

Lananna is gratified for the athletes’ early thumbs-up appraisal of the track.

“Sometimes with an indoor track, if you get too much give or laxity to, the runner’s return from the track is not in a forward motion,” he says. “You need to be sure it’s not going to suck the energy out of the runner’s legs. This track gives you the amount of propulsion commensurate with the force you put in it.

“What’s been most important is the athletes have had good things to say about it. I think it’s going to be the best World Indoors we’ve ever had, and the track has a lot to do with that.”

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