$5.4M athletic track opening this fall at Sarnia school

Northern Collegiate’s Sebastian Smith nails a jump at the 2014 LSSAA track championships held at the St. Patrick’s High School track. Smith, one of many elite athletes that the soon-to-close facility helped produce, went on to win national track and field titles. Bruce Smith Photo

Troy Shantz

As contractors get ready to bulldoze Sarnia’s premier athletic track for a new helipad near the hospital, a replacement is taking shape across the city.

The eight-lane track and field facility going in at Great Lakes Secondary School will cost about $5.4 million, said the school board’s business superintendent.

It’s the board’s first artificial turf multisport field and will feature painted lines for football and soccer and a new scoreboard clock, Brian McKay said.

“We’ll be in position to hold that traditional track and field event, where you’ve got running events going on at the same time you’ve got a host of field events,” he said.

”We’re looking forward to adding that to (Great Lakes) already great facility.”

Forest-based Wellington Builders Inc. is overseeing the project with specialized subcontractors hired to help, McKay said. Construction started in May and is expected to wrap in November.

The 400-metre oval running track will have a synthetic rubber surface similar to that used at the East Street track it is replacing.

Aprons will also be added for events such as high jump, long jump and pole vault, with a new grass practice field south of the facility, McKay said.

The Lambton Kent District School Board has not yet decided on bleachers, which could be added later to the Murphy Road school, McKay said.

“We wanted to ensure that all of the pieces have been included in the project, (which is) another reason why the price tag is higher.

“We wanted to design something that can be used for a complete track and field meet, as well as a great experience for a soccer game or a football game.”

Meanwhile, soil sampling was underway last week at the track facility on East Street, which originally belonged to Central Collegiate and later St. Patrick’s High School.

Bluewater Health bought the property from the St. Clair Catholic District School Board in 2016 and is now preparing to build a heliport on part of the track land.

The hospital has in recent years allowed the Sarnia Athletics Southwest Track and Field Club to use the track. It will no longer be available for public use this fall.

Lambton County is covering up to half the capital cost of the $800,000 helipad, from which patients can be transferred by air ambulance to larger hospitals.

“The addition of the on-site helipad at Bluewater Health will undoubtedly benefit the community and the health of all Lambton County residents,” said Lambton Warden Kevin Marriott.

The hospital’s operating budget does not cover the helipad, so the remaining $400,000 is being fundraised by the Bluewater Health Foundation.

It’s expected to be ready for use by late fall, the hospital said.