Building new athletic facilities are expensive, and the onus they put on school districts is sky high given the dire financial straits that many states find themselves in. Amidst this sea of financial concerns and general uncertainty, one Oregon school came up with a novel way to get a desperately needed, professional quality running track: It traded a waffle iron for it.
As reported by the Portland Oregonian, Condon (Ore.) High was in desperate need for a new track and runways for the long jump, pole vault and javelin events. Two years after the program was nearly eliminated because of budget cuts, volunteer coaches Jon and Melissa Bowerman knew they needed to do something to improve the school's facilities if the tiny combined team from Condon and Wheeler (Ore.) highs was ever going to compete at a viable level.
Yet, instead of a lengthy process of soliciting donations and trying to get public funding, Jon Bowerman dug through his family's attic and pulled out an old, beaten up waffle iron once wielded by his father, legendary Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman.
The younger Bowerman reached out to Nike, whose founder Phil Knight had once run for Bowerman at Oregon and who was inspired by his coach's innovative methods to change the way shoes for runners were constructed. Then, the younger Bowerman offered up a rather unique barter deal: The Condon coach would give Nike the waffle iron that helped set the stage for Nike's dominance in the shoe industry if Nike agreed to give Condon High's track a complete makeover.
Unsurprisingly, Nike jumped at the chance. In fact, the sportswear and shoe maker went beyond just re-doing the track facility -- at a cost of $100,000 -- to try and help the team. The Condon/Wheeler track team was given a tour of the complete Nike complex in Beaverton, Ore., where it met Mia Hamm and other Nike celebrities on-site. The teens also competed in a scavenger hunt which ended in the complex's Prefontaine building, in which the waffle iron is currently housed.
And when the track was ready to run, legendary runner Alberto Salazar and professional snowboarder and Oregon native Danny Kass showed up to dedicate the facility.
Combine those honors with the $100,000 used to revitalize the Condon track, and you have one heck of a return for an old waffle iron which just happened to re-appear in fall 2010 in a rubbish pit on the elder Bowermans' property after decades missing from action.
Now, the waffle iron is at the center of the company its use helped inspire, and a track team on the verge of elimination got a picturesque new track. If ever there was a trade that Bowerman himself would have advocated for, that sounds like it.