High school track teams in New York state haven’t had many opportunities to race this indoor season. Some indoor tracks have been closed this year, and the main, most famous venue — The Armory in New York City — is currently being used as a COVID-19 vaccination centre. With few options and an empty schedule, coaches at a high school in Suffern, N.Y., about an hour north of NYC, came up with the out-of-the-box idea to host a track meet in a parking garage. Surprisingly, other teams got on board, and the Palisades Center Underground Track Series was born.
Track finds a way.
The Palisades Mall has one of the biggest underground parking garages in the US. With the mall at half capacity, and the garage closed to the public, where better to hold a track meet?
— MileSplit NY (@MileSplitNY) February 18, 2021
According to dyestat.com, Suffern High School assistant track coach Steve Pashley came up with the idea and pitched it to Jeff Dempsey, the team’s head coach. Pashley told Dempsey about the Palisades Center, a mall in nearby West Nyack with a four-level parking garage that hasn’t been in use for several months. (The mall has remained open during the pandemic, but customers have only had access to the facility’s above-ground parking lot.)
Pashley and Dempsey reached out to the Palisades Center staff, and although they were hesitant at first, the meet was eventually given the go-ahead. “The lot … is an enormous space,” Dempsey told dyestat.com. “You could do five 200m tracks in there.”
Dempsey and Pashley ultimately decided on a 300m loop for the races, and they included a 220m space where athletes could warm up. With the green light from the mall, final approval from the school district and a course laid out, the meet was ready to go, and four other high schools sent teams to compete.
The meet was held on February 17, and 122 athletes showed up to race in 14 different events. There were runs as short as 55m up to 3,200m, plus boys and girls 4 x 300m relays. After the success of the first meet, a second was held on February 20, and the Palisades Center Underground Track Series was officially born.
Pashley and Dempsey said they aren’t sure if the series will continue much longer, as their school district has voted for the indoor track season to end on February 28. Even if they can’t run any more meets this season, the Palisades Center will always be a solid backup plan in the years to come if real indoor tracks are ever unavailable.