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Rebuilding The Wood

April 25, 2012, 9:59 PM by David Brown

Rebuilding The Wood
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

It's been a hallmark of Sioux Falls athletics for nearly 100 years. But like a century-old building, Howard Wood Field still needs a figurative fresh coat of paint.

The Wood's been under a major overhaul since October. And while crews hope to put new life into the field, one of the consequences will be the cancellation of the annual Howard Wood Relays in May.  But there's still plenty to look forward to in the future.

In a place where so many people have put their foot down, the only tracks currently inside Howard Wood Field are made by construction machines.

"We realized that probably about five to six years ago that we were going to need to have a considerable upgrade to the facilities out here if we were going to keep them here," Sioux Falls Athletic Director Mark Meile said.

Meile says even though officials understood the Wood needed some work, another big project put things into question.

"This project was planned for three years ago and we delayed it based on the city wanting to decide what we were going to do with an Events Center," Meile said.

But once Meile and others knew the Events Center wouldn't impede on Howard Wood Field, the construction process began. Since October, crews have been working every day on multiple facets of the Wood including the legendary track, which hasn't been replaced in decades.

"The surface is going to be the same type of surface that we have right now," Meile said. "But I think it will hopefully be a fast track, which we've been fortunate to have in the past."

The accommodations for fans will also improve, with new aluminum seating in the grand stands, as well room for people with disabilities.

"I think it will seem like a brand new place," Meile said. "To me that's exciting and I think the people that will come out here will be able to enjoy the events that are out there even more than they have in the past."

And the new digs will also extend to football coaches, who will benefit from a newly-remodeled press box.

"It's going to be a bit of a better sight and will be higher in the air. I think they'll appreciate that," Meile said.

But with all the novelty going into Howard Wood Field, one of its annual traditions will be missed. Construction will cancel this year's edition of the Howard Wood Relays, one of the biggest track and field events in the country.

"Obviously, we're disappointed we can't have it," Meile said. "There was a little sticker shock on that, but in the early 90s, it was cancelled due to rain, so it's not like it hasn't ever been done before."

The relays will return in 2013, with all the renovations complete well before then.

"We're hoping to be able to get that all done and say the project is complete by August 1 of this year," Meile said.

Over the years, there have been dozens of rumors surrounding Howard Wood Field, including whether or not it should be replaced or even moved to a different location. But Meile hopes this latest remodeling project can put those rumors to rest.

"I've always said it's the premier spot for a high school sporting event in the upper Midwest and I don't think we've done anything to deter that," Meile said. "We look forward to it being that way for many years to come."

And while there are plenty of changes to the nearly 100-year-old facility, Meile hopes the experience will remain the same.

"We didn't really change any of the sight lines or anything like that," Meile said. "We just made it look a lot better and with a new and improved track, I think it'll still be a great spot to hold an event."

Because of the renovations, middle school track teams have actually held events at high school tracks. Meile says the work won't have an impact on football season.

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