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Ralston Public Schools is progressing on an extensive construction project at Ralston High School’s track and field. The project when all said and done will cost $1.9 to $2 million.

The stadium at Ralston High School has stood, as is, for 17 years.

This fall, the artificial surfaces on the track and field will receive a long overdue facelift in the form of a $1.9 to $2 million renovation project.

Jason Buckingham, Ralston Public School’s executive director of fiscal affairs, said most artificial surfaces used at stadiums will last 10 to 12 years.

“We really did a pretty outstanding job of taking care of our facility, and we got almost 17 years out of it,” Buckingham said.

Buckingham said the bleachers are in good enough shape to leave as is but the track and field present potential safety hazards to anyone using the space.

The project will replace the running track’s existing asphalt with a new asphalt base and rubber surface.

The playing field will be replaced with a crushed rock base and synthetic turf field surface.

The track will be black instead of the current red, as a black track is less expensive and ages better over time.

He said track and field replacement projects aren’t typically “too significant,” but because the stadium sits as a bowl, there were extensive drainage issues that needed addressing.

There will be an increased amount of drainage added.

“It has been something where (contractors) have had to go well underneath the surface of the field itself in order to get a drain set up to where it’s flows out of there properly,” Buckingham said.

He said contractors have finished most of the underground work at the stadium and can now focus on laying asphalt, concrete and fly ash.

The track will receive a high amount of foot traffic when the project is completed.

Not only do the school’s sports teams use the track and field, but so do its band and physical education classes. The district also rents it out to semi-pro football teams to bring in revenue.

Beyond RPS, city teams take advantage of it and some patrons do, as well.

“If you come up on any given day, you’ll see people using our facility,” Buckingham said.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has had mixed effects on construction progress.

On one hand, because spring sports were canceled, the project started earlier than expected.

He said some groups of people involved with the construction had to enter into voluntary quarantine because of exposure they had to COVID-19.

As a result, there has been some slowdown on construction.

“All told, I don’t know that we’re ahead or behind, we’re just about on what our original schedule was,” Buckingham said.

Though the pandemic was an unforeseen circumstance, there might be some leeway on the time frame.

Buckingham said the goal is to at least have the field surface ready in time for the school’s first football game.

The track surface will likely not be completed by the start of football season.

“We’re really pushing hard to make sure that if we’re able to play football here this fall, we’ll have facilities to do that,” Buckingham said.

Although RPS is not making any improvements to the bleachers now, Buckingham said the bleachers would be an issue the district will have to address later down the line.

“We do regular maintenance on them, we do things like have contractors come in and replace mortar on bricks and we’ll repair concrete that’s damaged on it,” Buckingham said.

“But by and large, the stadium looks the same way it did back in the early 1970s.

He said the stadium itself did not look terrible, but renovation was needed.

“It’s like anything in your own home, everything’s got a certain amount of life and once that life expectancy is gone, it’s time for a replacement,” Buckingham said.

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