The newly resurfaced Oleai track oval remains closed and is expected to open either in December or early next year since the decade-old facility is scheduled for minor improvements.
The resurfacing of the track finished last June and the Northern Marianas Sports Association is waiting for the International Association of Athletics Federations’ Level II certification.
The Oleai track and field stadium was the only Level II certified eight-lane facility in the region, but the facility deteriorated over the years.
The track was set to open later this month, in early September, or once IAAF releases the certification. NMSA staff Elias Rangamar, however, said the opening would be delayed with NMSA executive director Tony Rogolifoi planning to improve the dirt and grass of the football pitch at the same time fix the drainage system and replace the fence.
There are portions of the pitch that are uneven and packed hard. A different mower must also be used to in the maintenance of the grass once it is replaced, to avoid a different type of grass and weed to grow.
NMSA would then start charging a small fee for joggers, runners, or walkers who would be using the track oval once it opens again. NMSA is already charging minimal fees for the use of the other facilities inside the Oleai Sports Complex.
Rogolifoi said the fee would only be minimal, similar to the one they are charging at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymmasium weight room.
“We’re also reminding the public that the track is still closed and we’re waiting for the IAAF certification. Once we open it to the public, we’re going to start charging a fee for those who would use the facility,” said Rogolifoi.
“We won’t be charging that much. The money collected will help us with the maintenance of the facility since NMSA is now a private and non-profit group,” he added.
The Division of Sports and Recreation, under the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, used to manage the sports complex’s operations with Rogolifoi as former director.
The government turned over the maintenance and operations of the sports complex to NMSA in 2013.
Rogolifoi said NMSA would keep the track in top condition once it was again awarded the Level II certification by the IAAF and with Saipan also set to host two major international sporting events.
The IAAF certification is needed so the CNMI, through the Northern Marianas Athletics, could bid and host IAAF-sanctioned events. Saipan will be hosting the 2018 Micronesian Athletics Championships, while the 2021 Pacific Mini Games will also be held here.
“We need to make sure there is some sort of control with the use of the facility, since they just finished resurfacing the track. We would also want to remind the public that once the track opens, we’re going to implement rules and other guidelines,” said Rogolifoi.
Rangamar also said that the public should also give priority to the athletes who are training with lanes 1 to 4 reserved for their use and lanes 5 to 8 for walkers and joggers.