Laura Carlyle enjoys teasing Oregon State track coach Kelly Sullivan.
The junior distance star razzed Sullivan after practice earlier this spring, saying "I better get to run on that track or I'm transfering."
Carlyle wasn't talking about the surface at Corvallis High - where OSU has practiced for the last four years - either. She was refering directly to the realization of a long-standing goal for Beavers track fans and Sullivan: an on-campus facility at OSU.
Three years ago athletic director Bob De Carolis gave Sullivan and the track boosters permission to "dream big" and complete the fund-raising push to build a facility.
Within days of the conclusion of the NCAA championships, the Beavers will break ground on a home track.
There will be a ceremony on June 14, acknowledging the efforts to reach this point. Then a backhoe will move some dirt and Phase I of the project will kick into high gear.
"I want people to realize that, even though we'll dig a hole and start, we're still not done with the very first thing they said to us: raise the money," Sullivan said.
A noticeable home
OSU's track team is still clouded in anonymity on the campus. Their training has taken place either at Linus Pauling Middle School or CHS since the program was brought back in the 2004-5 school year.
"Our ladies still walk through campus wearing their T-shirts and people say ‘I didn't know we had a track program,'" Sullivan said. "It's not an ignorant statement. When you don't have an on-campus facility, who would know?"
The Beavers old home track - left abandoned and decaying when the program was cut in 1988 - was converted to a parking lot during the 1994 football season. Later it was torn out to make way for the Hilton Garden Inn and the OSU Softball Complex.
When the women's program was reinstated and Sullivan was hired to run it, he had no track and a limited budget.
He did have a built-in set of boosters committed to bringing the Beavers all the way back as a track program.
Carlyle's quip is really that because of the efforts of the fund-raising committee, Mike Goodwin and the OSU Foundation, former coach Berny Wagner and dozens of others.
Phase I will give them a place to train on campus and should be completed by November. That alone will raise the profile of the program on campus.
It's hard to ignore a nine-lane oval, turf infield, discus and shot put rings, runways for the long jump and triple jump and a pole vault pit.
The facility may not be in the middle of campus, but it will gain attention on its own, especially when Phase II begins.
Each of the phases comes with a $4 million price tag. Sullivan is hopeful that work on Phase II, which includes the grandstand, timing system, restrooms, hammer area and entry way, can begin in early 2012.
There's a need for more money to make that happen - realizing Phase I can help there.
Sullivan is eager to see the facility finished and to host a meet.
"It's a lot of work, a lot of time, but I love the feeling of putting on a first class meet," he said. "A day meet, a night meet, having teams come in from all over the country ... I can just picture teams coming in to town and filling up hotels and restaurants."
There's a vision for holding all-comers meets on campus and reciprocating the huge assist the Beavers have gotten from area high schools by allowing them to host invitationals. And Sullivan would like to lure one of the high school state championship meets to Corvallis as well.
Those are all objectives Sullivan thinks about, but he hasn't promised any recruits the chance to compete on campus. He has repeatedly shared the dream, though.
"We've told recruits from day one that it's something we've been (working toward)," Sullivan said. "This is a grass-roots effort. If we can raise (the money) it will be built."
More than 100 track boosters have contributed to the effort. Some of the money has been in a fund for nearly 20 years. All of it has come from large and small donors - even from people Sullivan has met by chance.
Making it real
Reality won't look like the conceptual drawings used to raise the money. While the location remains the same with Lorenz Field and the softball complex bordering it to the north, 15th Street to the east and Highway 34 to the south, the grandstand will be erected between the track and the highway, putting the finish line on the south side of the track.
Just getting Phase I finished will boost OSU's facilities immensely, and not just for track.
Soccer teams will be able to practice on the artificial infield at the track, intramurals will have access and so will physical education classes.
Other teams will also be able to use the facility for conditioning.
A third phase will be the most expensive: $5 million to endow the program and bring about the return of men's track as a scholarship sport. That could prove a boon to football.
A small group of football players already facilitated a limited return; but a full team could lure recruits the Beavers have missed out on in the past.
Finally, there is a fourth phase, requiring $1 million to build a national class cross country course. OSU's first NCAA team championship in any sport was in cross country in 1961.
OSU Track Groundbreaking
WHAT: OSU celebration of the construction launch of the new on-campus track and field facility
WHO: Bob De Carolis, director of athletics, and track coach Kelly Sullivan
WHEN: Tuesday, June 14, 4 p.m.
WHERE: OSU Softball Complex parking lot behind the Hilton Garden Inn
SPECIAL GUESTS: OSU President Ed Ray, OSU Foundation President and CEO Mike Goodwin, lead donor Jim Whyte, former OSU track and field athlete and Olympian Dick Fosbury and former OSU head cross country and track coaches Sam Bell, Berny Wagner, Chuck McNeil and Pat Ingram.
TO ATTEND: Complete the form at campaignforosu.org/track by June 7 or call the Beaver Athletic Student Fund at 541-737-2370. The event is sponsored by Oregon State Athletics and the Oregon State University Foundation