capsule serif;”>In an email sent out to all students at 11.33 am on 21illness serif;”>st November, Martin Butler, stated that the UCD running track had “reached the end of its operational life and has had to be closed due to health and safety concerns.”
He continued to say that advisors had reported that the track should be closed to all users due to a “badly worn” surface which “becomes slippy when wet”. By this time, signs and fences were placed around the track. At 7am the next morning, diggers tore up the track, digging a trench through it.
According to a member of the UCD Athletics Club, the track was closed due to plans for the UCD Gateway Project. A statement on the university website explains that this project plans to provide a signature entrance to the UCD campus from the N11 which is in keeping with that of a leading European university, and to create an opening or bridgehead to the community and to our alumni. Under this, a new running track was meant to open near Richview and the old site would become a road. Allegedly, funding for the project has been cut.
UCD Athletics club has launched a “Save Our Track” campaign in response to the closure of the running track. There is a strong online presence with the facebook page receiving over 1,500 likes, a YouTube video garnering about 3,000 views and a twitter campaign. Richard Owens, Men’s Captain, told the College Tribune that their physical petition has more than 5200 signatures, with an online version in excess of 500.
A number of high profile sports people have come out in support of the campaign, in particular athletes who trained on the Belfield running track. David Matthews, a former UCD student and current national 800m record holder, wrote in a letter to UCD that “what saddens[him] most is that the sport that has provided University College Dublin with more Olympians and World Championship competitors than any other club in the college has slowly died over the last ten years and the closing of the track been the final nail in the coffin.”
Other supporters include former UCD student Antoine Burke, Olympian; Eamonn Coughlan, World Champion 5000m; Andrew Walker, international former Nike sponsored athlete; and a number of TDs.
Owens states that UCD Sport has been supportive of the Athletics club and that the Director of Sport in UCD, Brian Mullins, has been in contact since the announcement. An offer was made to pay for use by the members of the Irishtown Stadium, however, it is estimated that in rush hour traffic it would take students an hour each way to reach the stadium from UCD.
The Athletics club lament that they were not given “more notice of the closure and subsequent dismantling of the track than [they] were”. They feel that an advance warning and postponement of the closure until Christmas break would have “been a big help,” allowing them to organize a movement of training for their two hundred and fifty six members.
UCD Lawsoc are hosting an assembly on Monday 28th at 19.00 in Theatre P for the Athletics club to defend the track.