Ribbons were cut and young athletes ran as the Athletics South Canterbury All Weather Track Trust, supporters and donors celebrated the official opening of the new $1 million resurfaced track.

Coinciding with the first Mid-South Canterbury Interclub of the year, the trust held drinks and nibbles at the Aorangi Park all-weather athletics track last week, to commemorate the hard work, time and money put into the three-year-long project.

Trust chairman Gordon Ireland said it was a long hard road to get to where they were today.

‘‘What we now see before us is a great facility, but it certainly didn’t happen by magic.

‘‘The trust definitely had a few heart-stopping moments along the way.

‘‘We had Covid chucked in the middle of it all and had a track that was deteriorating the longer time went on. If you have a track deteriorate, then you have to rip the whole thing up.’’

Beautiful in blue . . .The previous red track has now been replaced with a new and improved blue track, once again laid by Italian company Mondo.

Delays caused by Italian company Mondo being unable to get into the country for the resurfacing because of Covid restrictions added to the time crunch they were already under, he said.

However, the delays were not all bad as it allowed the trust to be productive elsewhere.

‘‘Thankfully for us, the delays meant we could put a $65,000 regulation hammer cage in.’’

The trust had to store all the track materials at his workplace while they waited, Mr Ireland said.

‘‘We had three 40-foot containers and two 20-foot containers to hold all the track; there was about 59 rolls.

‘‘We had to look after all that gear for a year and keep all the glue, paint and filler above zero degrees, so we had heaters in the containers in the winter to stop them getting too cold.’’

The call finally came from Mondo that it was ready to go, and work began on March 4.

Officially opened . . . Cutting the ribbon to officially open the track are South Canterbury All Weather Track trustees (from left) Reg Brockett, Don Garland, trust secretary Helen Mackle, trustee Michael Boorer, treasurer Helen Page, Mayor Nigel Bowen, chairman Gordon Ireland and trustees Linley Welford and Ray Bowen. PHOTOS: CONNOR HALEY

It took five weeks to get all the track down and a further two weeks to get all the lines painted on.

‘‘We started at the D-shaped area, then did the other end where the steeplechase is, then we kept on going.

‘‘You end up with 6000 bricks [used to hold sections of track down] that would have to be shifted each day.

‘‘I had to drill another couple of holes in my belt because there was only the three Mondo fellows and myself.’’

It was great to be able to have the trustees and supporters together on the same night as the interclub, he said.

‘‘It’s important for them to see the whole point of this — seeing those kids running around.’’

After receiving a 41-page report on the track, the trust had only two small fixes to complete before receiving a class 1 certificate, the highest the track could receive.

Test run . . . Cleo Taylor, 12, tries the new surface of the Aorangi Park all-weather athletics track before competing in the inter-club competition. 

Trustee Linley Welford said it was gratifying to finally have the track open.

‘‘We had to keep focus on it; we had to keep thinking it would be happening.

‘‘We thought the longer this lasts, it could get more difficult, but we got to the end and still had enough money.’’

Getting 20 years out of the old track was brilliant, she said.

‘‘Some tracks are only getting about seven or eight years out of it.

‘‘I saw the 1976 Montreal Olympic track was still around

— most Olympic tracks get pulled up. I emailed them tongue in cheek and actually got a reply.

‘‘They had their track for 25 years and were also only just about to resurface.

‘‘So this time around we said we would have to go with Mondo again as they’ve proven themselves. Cost-wise it’s nearly $1 million, but in that time we could have had to have resurfaced three or four times over. If all goes well, the new surface should last another 20 years.’’

Most importantly, she was just looking forward to having competition back, she said.

‘‘The big thing is people using it. We have the Lovelock Classic in January next year, the South Island Secondary Schools in March and the nationals at the end of the year.’’

The support behind the project had been phenomenal, Mrs Welford said.

‘‘We have had lots of excited responses and congratulatory messages. The support was great and it’s nice to get that real positive feedback.’’

Mayor Nigel Bowen called the project a ‘‘phenomenal result again for the community’’.

‘‘This is what you call a great, successful community project.

‘‘There probably isn’t another place in the country that has a track of this calibre — for a population of 50,000 it’s really impressive.’’

Mr Bowen cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the track, after which he took part in the first official race on the new surface.