Track & field: Team effort puts Potts Field renovations on display at Pac-12 finals

May 11—The reconstruction officially began a year ago, when the University of Colorado Board of Regents approved the renovation project that would remake Prentup Field, Potts Field and the adjoining ski building.

Hours before Colorado was set to host the final edition of the Pac-12 Conference outdoor track and field championships, the final touches of that overhaul still were being applied to Potts Field.

As CU capped the opening day of the three-day competition on Friday with a championship from Bailey Hertenstein in the women's 10K, the Buffaloes' longest-tenured athletic institution, head coach Mark Wetmore, was in a reflective and appreciative mood.

Like much of his three decades in charge of CU's cross country and track programs, Wetmore described the push to get Potts ready for this weekend's Pac-12 farewell as very much a team effort, from the administrative level to the grounds and stadium operations in addition to the generosity of longtime CU track and cross country donors, Paul and Brenda Lilly.

"It's the best I've ever seen it and I've been here since 1991. This is the best Potts facility we've ever had," Wetmore said. "There's a lot of people who put a lot of work into this. At the top is the decision by (athletic director) Rick George to do it. Rick had to make the decision to make this investment. His right-hand man, (associate AD for business operations) Cory Hilliard, he had to make the money work.

"Alex Hoots (CU's assistant AD of stadium operations), she's never put on a track meet of this size and she's done an amazing job. She's been working for a year and a half on this. (Assistant) Casey (Malone) is our home meet manager and this is the biggest thing he's ever done. He's brought in many thousands of dollars of equipment for two years. The grounds are beautiful."

Some of the renovations on display this weekend at Potts are obvious. The west side of the facility, on the boarder of Prentup Field, features new permanent bleachers plus new concession, restroom and storage facilities. The track has been resurfaced and there are new jump pits.

The preparation for this weekend's meet, however, has included plenty of attention to much finer details. Brand new starting blocks were acquired in recent weeks and are getting debuted this weekend. And Malone, CU's lead throws coach, said on Friday morning he was drilling fresh holes in concrete in order to make certain the hammer throw gates were exactly at NCAA specifications.

Malone said that Pac-12 fans, and teams, have become accustomed to championship venues like Oregon's historic Hayward Field, which has hosted NCAA championships and Olympic Trials. Even with Potts' recent facelift, CU's venue wasn't going to turn into Hayward II. But that hasn't prevented organizers from making Potts as pristine as possible for what is the final Pac-12 event for all of CU athletics before the university's return the Big 12 Conference.

"It's such an honor to get to host, especially since this is potentially the last Pac-12 championship, we've really taken it seriously," Malone said. "Our facility is not in Pac-12 championship form at all times. Maybe Oregon's is. But now is the time we can really let this whole place kind of blossom. We've put every little ounce of effort into trying to make everything right. There's all these little behind the scenes details that most people will never see when they come to a track meet.

"All the new equipment all around the stadium has helped make everything functional at the top level. It's fun to finally see it all get used and put into practice."