- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

Mike Spinnler rarely has been a guy who just sits around.

The race director of the JFK 50-Miler since 1993 said he has been directing events since he was a college student in 1977.

So it should come as no surprise that he jumped into high gear after hearing the proposed track at his local high school in Hagerstown, Md., would be built to national high school specifications, not to USA Track & Field specs.

“It is just a dollars and cents thing,” Spinnler said about the proposed stadium for North Hagerstown High School. “They want to build a multiuse complex. They fell several thousand short for their fund-raising goal, and they wanted to begin building now. So they have done some cost cutting.”

Spinnler is a respected runner and coach in the community and is also a guide to a visually impaired athlete. He and others runners in Hagerstown have envisioned holding major track meets at the facility, possibly even the National Junior College Athletic Association championships, but only if the track is USA Track & Field compliant.

“I asked [the Mike Callas Stadium committee] what we need to do to have them reconsider, to have them change the track to USATF specs, the cost difference,” Spinnler said. “They came back and said it would be $50,000. It would be [the track and field community’s] responsibility to come up with that difference. And I think that’s fair.”

John Williamson, committee chairman and member of the North Hagerstown boosters club, said he told Spinnler: “If you can raise the money, we will do our part to make it USATF compliant.”

That was Feb.8. Commitments for the cash are due by the time the stadium committee meets Thursday.

“It’s a very time-sensitive fund-raising project, which is why I jumped on this so fast,” said Spinnler, president of the Cumberland Valley Athletic Club since 1992.

By yesterday, Spinnler already had almost $20,000 committed.

“The meeting on the 23rd will be a ‘gut feel’ on how serious they are,” Williamson said. “How many come to the meeting and how much money has been pledged. There is not a specific litmus test. A lot of guys on our committee know Mike Spinnler, and he’s been around for a long time, and there’s a good feel he can get it done.”

The entire project, which includes a football field, soccer venues and the track, is a case study in public-private partnership.

Hagerstown’s two high schools have shared the same stadium at South Hagerstown High School for 46 years. Over the decades, opposition to spending money on a new stadium has kept it that way.

“This is the only public high school in the state of Maryland, surely with over 1,000 students, without a stadium,” Williamson said. “Numerous efforts over the past 25 to 30 years have been made to raise money to put a stadium there with a football field and a track. And it has always failed. Three years ago we tried for the fifth time.”

In October 2002, the Washington County Board of Education approved plans to build a stadium facility for $2.3million. Construction costs have risen greatly since then, and the project now costs $3.5million. About $2.3million has come from the private sector, according to Williamson, with the other $900,000 coming from the county commissioner’s office, the city of Hagerstown, the Maryland legislature and the Washington County school board. Williamson said he still is about $300,000 short.

The higher price tag forced cuts, and the track took some of the hits, which put it out of USATF compliance.

Spinnler explained one of the major differences between high school specs and USATF specs is the lane width. A high school has 36-inch lanes, while a USATF championship facility has 42-inch lanes.

“Also, we need to include a steeplechase facility,” he said. “In high school in Maryland, they don’t have the javelin and hammer, either. We would need that incorporated as well. Also, the size of apron for the high jump needs to be enlarged, and we will need runways in both directions for the pole vault, long jump and triple jump.”

Ground was broken in November with a projected opening date in August or early September of this year, Williamson said.

For Spinnler, this is his track of dreams.

“It was a dream of mine and the dream of the coaching staff at Hagerstown Community College for a long time to have a facility like this in Washington County.”

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