Construction is underway on a new track and football field at Belen High School.
The project, which was approved on a 4-1 vote by the Belen Board of Education in December 2019, was originally scheduled to begin after graduation in late May, but the timeline was pushed up after the COVID-19 pandemic ended in-person learning more than two months earlier than normal.
“The original plan was to get started after our high school graduation,” Belen Athletic Coordinator Steven Contreras said. “With the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing state orders the project plans were changed. With the facility being unoccupied the company was able to get started sooner.”
According to Contreras, the timeline is for the field to be completed by the end of May, while the track should be done by the end of June.
Synthetic turf fields traditionally have a life of 8-10 years, which Contreras says is what the district expects for the new field.
“We will make sure these facilities are well maintained throughout the next several years,” he said.
The current field at BHS has well exceeded this estimate, having been installed in 2006 and the track was installed in 2007.
The project, which is being done by the Albuquerque-based Robert Cohen Company, is funded by $862,294 in bond money. The Robert Cohen Company also handled the previous installation of the field at a cost of $679,000.
The biggest priority behind replacing these facilities, according to Contreras, was safety.
“The facilities will be brand new,” Contreras said. “The most important objective in getting these new facilities is safety.
“Our students will have a safe and resilient surface in which to participate on.
“The facility can withstand constant use and weather is not an issue with the exception of lightning.”
When the money for the project was approved, district maintence supervisor Antonio Sedillo said extra rubber dressing was installed on the field prior to last football season.
“That’s why it looks black. It got us through this season, but next year, it won’t be safe enough to play on,” he said.
“This will give us a new all-surface football field and resurfaced track, which will be sealed to prevent it from hardening.”
Contreras added the improvements to the facility don’t just benefit the football and track teams, but the community as a whole.
“The field does get used by more than just our football and track teams,” he said.
“Our physical education classes also use the facility throughout the year and our community members use the facilities in the evenings and weekends.
“The new athletic facility will benefit BHS students as well as our athletic teams and visiting opponents.”
The accelerated timeline for the project means the facility will be ready well in advance of the first football game, as well as be available for any summer activities, in the event the stay at home order is lifted and summer athletic activities are allowed by the NMAA and the state.