Lannigan Field, the University of Virginia's outdoor track and field athletic facility on Copeley Road, has long been open to community walkers and runners without restriction.
The popularity of the track - and the resulting high usage during track and field women's and men's team practices - has caused the University to rethink the scheduling due to safety concerns.
"This has become a safety issue for the community members who use the track and for our student-athletes," said Craig K. Littlepage, the University's director of intercollegiate athletics programs. "We cannot risk having our students, sprinting at high speeds, run into joggers or parents walking with young children. And we cannot risk someone from the community being hit with a shot put while out for a morning jog."
Littlepage explained that with 46 students on the women's track and field team and 45 on the men's, Lannigan Field can quickly become a hub of intense activity during varsity practices. "Keeping the field open to the public during practices is no longer viable," he said.
Working closely with Jason Vigilante, U.Va.'s director of track and field, Littlepage said he wanted to come up with a plan that would protect student athletes during practices but also allow for community use of the facility, which currently opens at dawn and closes at dusk.
While new hours - which go into effect Feb. 1 - will restrict the public during practices, the track will remain open during some of the peak hours in which community members currently use it.
The track will be reserved for varsity practices:
• Monday through Friday from 1:30 to 6 p.m.
• Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.
It will be reserved for public access:
• Monday through Friday from dawn to 1:30 p.m. and again from 6 p.m. to dusk.
• Saturday and Sunday from dawn to 8 a.m. and again from noon until dusk.
Littlepage said he hopes the community will understand the need for the women's and men's teams to have uninterrupted use of the track during practices.
"We are pleased to have the community enjoy this facility when it is not being used by our student-athletes," he said. "I know that this new schedule will take some adjustment, but in the end it will enhance the safety and security of all those who use Lannigan Field."
Signs with the new hours will be posted at the entrance to the track for a week before the schedule goes into effect. There will also be take-away cards available with the printed schedule.
Lannigan Field is used for a number of track and field events throughout the year for the University's teams as well as for local high school meets. Adjustments to track hours for those events will be posted at the facility entrance.
The track will continue to be available for special events by appointment through the Facilities and Operations area of the Athletics Department at 434-982-5022.