Two years ago when the final Idaho state high school track meets were held at Boise State University, fans were told that a new stadium being built by the school on 14 1/2 acres would be the ideal replacement.
It would be more intimate than BSU’s 34,000-seat Bronco Stadium. The new facility, Dona Larsen Park, would seat about 5,000 and fans would be right on top of the action. BSU also built a softball park nearby.
The idea was to keep all five state meets together at one site. That was the beauty of state track – the only state event where all five classifications came together at one site. Equal footing and equal treatment for all the athletes. It was truly a celebration.
The new stadium wasn’t ready last spring, so the Idaho High School Activities Association planned a temporary solution. It farmed out the five state meets to five Boise-area schools with the plan to go to the new stadium this spring.
What’s happened in the meantime, though, has created a perfect storm of sorts.
In a nutshell, when the stadium, which was inaugurated by high school football teams last fall, was built, there apparently wasn’t enough foresight given to parking. Between 79 and 100 parking spots are available, IHSAA executive director John Billetz said.
The IHSAA believed it couldn’t stage all five meets at Dona Larsen Park this year. So last fall, a decision was made to hold the 5A and 4A meets there and move the other meets to Middleton High School.
Then two weeks ago, with the parking issue unresolved, Billetz announced the 5A and 4A meets were moved to Eagle High School.
His email had barely been sent to those schools and a couple of coaches from North Idaho wanted some answers.
Why couldn’t people park at BSU and be shuttled over to Dona Larsen Park, Linda Lanker, the Coeur d’Alene coach, and Keith Stuffle, the Lewiston coach, asked.
Lanker argues that the IHSAA had plenty of time to come up with a shuttle plan. She even suggested that the meets could be moved temporarily to the new track at the University of Idaho. She went so far as to check on its availability.
“They promised us we’d get a new track,” Lanker said. “Then in the 11th hour, with nine weeks before state, they made this decision. It isn’t fair to kids.”
It’s not like state meets can’t be held at high schools, though. In Washington, the 4A, 3A and 2A meets are staged at Tahoma High in Tacoma. The 1A, 2B and 1B schools are treated to Eastern Washington University.
“It’s a shame,” Lanker said. “It was bad enough last year. We put up with it because we thought we’d have the new facility.”
Billetz understands the frustration. But he said all of the Boise-area 5A and 4A schools know that moving the meet to Eagle will ensure a smoother meet.
“The bottom line is people in the Boise area know it would be a nightmare if we tried to have it at Dona Larsen Park,” Billetz said. “We really wanted to make it work there, but the parking situation scared us. We’re as disappointed as anybody else.”
Billetz, who plans to retire after one more year as executive director, said he knows how important it is to try and return state track to its former format.
“I don’t want to leave this a mess,” Billetz said. “The last thing I want to do is drop this on the (new director). We want to get it rectified. We want to get it back to the way it was before.”