Trafford AC – a facility to inspire

Longford Park Stadium, home to Trafford AC, is known for its great open meetings and high-quality competition.  But with a track resurfacing on the horizon, it will be the facility itself that makes all the headlines.  We caught up with Mike Harris, volunteer at Trafford AC, who told us more about his role at the club and the exciting plans to resurface the track in the coming months.

The main track base was put down in the late 1980s and while there have been some repairs over the years, including a new topcoat layer in the early 2000s, the usage of the track means that a makeover is well overdue. 

Trafford AC track, clubhouse and stand

A lifetime of volunteering

Mike Harris is one of the incredible volunteers who really has dedicated a lifetime of hours to the sport!  In fact, Mike first started volunteering at Trafford AC when he was just seven years old:

"My dad was one of those who started the club in the early to mid-60s.  I used to go down with him and that’s where it started really.  I’ve never classed myself as an athlete, but I’ve always been at the club, helping out, going to team matches and team managing with my dad.  It’s in my blood, if you like, ever since I was very young."

Mike has been involved in a huge range of volunteer roles over the years.  We asked Mike if he could tell us about his favourite volunteer role:

"I think my favourite has to be coaching.  I get so much out of working with the athletes and seeing them compete because that is what the sport is all about."

Over the years, Mike has coached a range of different disciplines including distance and pole vault.  His main focus now, however, is sprints.  Mike currently coaches a group of about 25 teenagers, most of whom have only been involved in the sport for a couple of years.  We asked Mike what the new facility will mean to his group, the athletes at the club and those who use the facility on a regular basis:

"The athletes have been expecting a new track for a while now so they’re really looking forward to it.  I think that any new track does inspire as it looks more professional, and the athletes feel they will perform better, which is obviously a huge benefit. 

"I think it’s also great from a grassroots perspective.  When school pupils and athletes come for the first time, hopefully the new track will create a real wow factor for them."

Raising the funds

Resurfacing a track is no easy task, particularly when you consider the costs involved.  While the local council are providing a percentage of the money for the resurfacing, the club had to raise the remainder of the funds.  Fortunately, Trafford AC found several ways to raise the money.

Firstly, the club has a comprehensive open meetings programme which consists of their Grand Prix events on Tuesday evenings and their Medal Meetings which take place at the weekend.  Both series are very popular and every penny earned goes towards the resurfacing.  We asked Mike if he had a favourite moment from the summer of competition so far:

"One of the highlights was probably our Grand Prix event a couple of weeks ago when Laura Muir ran in the 800m.  She ran in one of the men’s races and hung on for dear life.  She ended up running 1:57 and seemed very happy.  It’s very inspiring for the younger athletes too, to see someone like Laura Muir competing at the same event as them."

Alex Bell runs 800m at Trafford

The club has also been raising money through a donation button when people enter open meetings.  Individuals can donate a pound or more and the club has been delighted by the uptake.  Other methods of fundraising include putting the excess from training fees towards the resurfacing and having a big yellow bucket at the entrance to the stadium where people can donate spare change.

Planning ahead

Depending on when the track is resurfaced, and the weather conditions, the process could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.  We asked Mike how the club plans to run training for the athletes whilst the track is out of action:

"It’s something we have started to consider but we won’t go into the detail until we have the exact timings.  If, for example, the resurfacing is in August/September time, that should be easier as it tends to be a quieter time from a track point of view as the distance athletes will go on the roads and others will be on rest periods. 

"We will need to consider parkrun, Simply Cycling and other users as they use the track all year round.  Whilst we haven’t worked out the exact logistics yet, we will certainly do our best to make sure everyone is provided for and to keep the club together as much as possible."

Plans for the future

Once the track is resurfaced, Trafford AC is toying with the idea of having a grand opening of some sort although plans for this are still very much up in the air.  One thing that remains certain, however, is that the club will continue to run its open meetings and will very much look forward to doing so on the brand-new track.  We asked Mike if he had any advice for other club volunteers looking to host competitions on their local track:

"I would advise clubs to start small and identify what events they would want to put on for what age groups and go from there.  I think ultimately, no matter how small, if you can put on a well-run meeting, athletes will come back time and time again and pay a reasonable fee to do so.  This money can then be put back into officials' expenses, medals for the younger athletes and other things which can help elevate your event."