$2.6 million Warmerdam Field upgrade gives student-athletes a place to train
by Eddie Hughes
The Warmerdam Field track was last resurfaced in 1989. Since then, Fresno State has had three track and field coaches, played in three different conferences and witnessed the Unites States under four different presidents. Translation: the track was due for an update.
And it’s happening. The University broke ground in December on a $2.6 million project that will include a new eight-lane, all-weather track; a high-jump area; long- and triple-jump runways, two pole vault runways; and shot put, discus, hammer cage and javelin improvements.
While the track and field programs will continue to compete at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School — widely considered one of the top 10 track and field venues in the nation — the facelift to Warmerdam Field will give Fresno State student-athletes a safe, convenient place to train.
In recent years, the surface of the track became so worn that the teams avoided it because of a risk of injury. Eighth-year Fresno State track and field coach Scott Winsor said an expert visited the track in 2011 to test its hardness using a bounce meter. “He said, ‘You are basically running on concrete,” recalls Winsor, noting that a hard surface can put more stress on student-athletes’ joints.
Student-athletes currently ride in vans about 30 minutes roundtrip to and from Veterans Memorial Stadium to practice, which Winsor says cuts into the amount of time they can train because of class schedules. The upgraded Warmerdam Field will solve that issue.
“We would stay across the street on the grass fields, training as much as we could on the grass,” Winsor says. “But at some point you’ve got to get the blocks out, you’ve got to get the hurdles out, you’ve got to high jump, you’ve got to pole vault. You don’t have a choice; you’ve got to be on the track.”
The contractor for the project is BMY Construction Group of Fresno. The project is being financed through the University’s general fund reserves. The track also will be used by kinesiology, ROTC and University High School students.
A Historical Perspective
Warmerdam Field is named for Cornelius “Dutch” Warmerdam (pictured), a Fresno State alumnus who held the world pole vault record from 1940 to 1943 before coaching the Bulldogs for 20 years. Warmerdam became the first vaulter to clear 15 feet, and he did it using a bamboo pole.
The first-ever dual meet at Warmerdam Field was April 23, 1977. Warmerdam Field later hosted the 1994, 2001 and 2007 Western Athletic Conference championships. Fresno State won the men’s outdoor team title in 1994 under then-coach Red Estes, who was inducted into the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2000.
Estes led the men’s track and field team for 20 seasons and won 10 consecutive conference championships from 1983 to 1992. He remains active in the Bulldog Foundation, supporting Fresno State athletics to this day, and stresses the importance of academics.
“Those kids have to be students first,” Estes says. “The number of athletes who go to pro sports and make a living is very minimal. If you have a sport on campus, make sure it contributes in every way it can. Look at the hundreds of hours our student-athletes contribute to the community and volunteering.”
In 2001, Bob Fraley took over for Estes as director of track and field after coaching at Fresno State for 20 seasons. He retired from Fresno State in 2008 but continues to direct the North American Pole Vaulting Association Championship each summer on the streets of Old Town Clovis.