The LaVern Gibson Championships Cross Country Course has hosted 10 NCAA Division 1 championships and will host another yet again in 2014, but when the teams arrive in Terre Haute this time around they will see several improvements to the permanent cross country course.
“We began construction on the course in 1995, then held our first competition on it in 1997, but the thing that makes the course so unique is that we are constantly upgrading it,” said Men’s Head Cross Country Coach John McNichols. “Between parking, fencing and buildings, it has been one upgrade after another.”
The course will now feature 13,000 square yards of drainage tile, mainly at the starting line and main finish straight, but also along 10 other portions of the course. This comes after a year where standing water forced the race organizers to move the start line up about 100 meters due to standing water. This will alleviate the amount of water on the course after heavy rain that can sometimes hit during the fall.
“After the issues we had last year with heavy rain fall, some of our drainage problems became more evident,” said McNichols. “This plan will do quite a bit to alleviate the problems with the drainage.”
Executive Director of Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau, Dave Patterson added, “The improvements made this year should keep the course in the best shape it has ever been and should provide a great experience to the runners and fans alike.”
Another big improvement to the course will involve a new 850 foot x 120 foot gravel parking lot. The lot will be located parallel to Tabertown Road and will have access points to both the main and team gates to make for a much smoother transition for fans and teams as they arrive into the course.
“The improved parking lot will give fans a chance to park on a more quality surface, rather than on the grass like in years past,” said NCAA Meet Director and Indiana State Assistant Track Coach Jeff Martin. “Hopefully with improved weather, the number of spectators at the meet will increase.”
The NCAA Championships are the pinnacle of collegiate sport and should be a memorable and rewarding moment to be recognized. There will be a new awards stand to be added in 2014 that will recognize the athletes that earn the top individual and team honors. It will consist of five limestone pillars from the historic Terre Haute House incorporated into the design, as well as limestone floor and steps from the Terre Haute House. The new award stand will be ADA accessible and lead to a 34 foot long by 18 foot wide platform that fans and athletes alike will see as they enter the course.
“The awards stand will be east of the staging area at the top of the hill,” said McNichols. “We’ll still use the downhill amphitheater style, but it will be very nicely done using pillars from the Terre Haute House. This will ensure that we have a nice connection to the community, while also having the facility look first class.”
These changes will be the first major improvements to the course since bleacher seating was added to the main straightaway in 2010. The course has undergone several major changes since breaking ground in 1995, including the construction of the finish line building and press box in 1998, irrigation system to the main straightaway in 1999, permanent fencing down the main straightaway in 2002, which expanded to permanent fencing along the whole course from 2003 to present, and the construction of a concession stand and bathroom facilities to make it one of the nation’s best cross country only facilities. There is no doubt that these improvements are a key component to not only enhancing the experience in 2014 and 2016, but also will ensure more bids for these meets in future years as well as the opportunity to host the USA Cross Country Championships.
“I’m very excited about the new additions,” said Greg Gibson. “We continue to improve the experience year after year, which is great for the community and will improve our chances to host more championships in the future.”
“The LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course is the finest cross country specific facility in the nation. Our partnership with the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center has been one that has helped to put the cross country course, Indiana State University and the sport of Cross Country in the national spotlight. The course just keeps getting better and better,” added Indiana State University Athletic Director Ron Prettyman. “With these improvements the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Cross Country National Championship could turn out to be the best championship ever.”
The LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center was dedicated on October 17, 1997. LaVern Gibson donated the 240 acres of land for the development of the course and facility. Indiana State and Boston Celtic basketball great Larry Bird made a donation to the development of the facility in honor of his father, Joe Bird, and Max and Greg Gibson matched that donation in the name of their father and grandfather, respectively. The reclaimed coalmine now includes the cross country course and an indoor facility that houses two full size basketball courts, locker rooms, and a Senior Citizen center.
The facility is located just east of the Hulman International Airport in eastern Vigo County.