Since 1982, the Indiana University Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium has been an icon in the city of Indianapolis for many reasons. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012, the stadium is home to many record-breaking feats from celebrity athletes such as Olympians Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith-Joyner.
With the specially designed Mondo 400 meter Super X Performance track, athletes of all levels are eager to test their skills at the stadium, often setting new standards for themselves and breaking standing world records. The U.S. Paralympics Track & Field Team will also be a regular sight at the stadium in the summer of 2012. They have chosen the Indiana University’s facilities for the 2012 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field Trials on June 29-July 1, prior to the official Paralympic Games in London, England.
The U.S. Paralympics team’s director of high performance, Cathy Sellers, is looking forward to training at Indiana University’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium, particularly for the wheelchair athletes. “There is less resistance to the tires on the Mondo track, consequently the athletes get faster times,” she says. “Fast times are critical for us because that determines who will be able to attend the actual event.”
The IPC (International Paralympic Committee) allows 80 athletes per country, which is the maximum number. Some regions can have less than that. “The performances help indicate how many slots we will get, or how many athletes we can take,” says Sellers. “We want the fastest surface to train on, particularly for the wheelchair athletes, because that is a large portion of our team. Mondo tracks provide that for us.”
Sellers says since starting her position in 2009 with the Paralympics teams, she has seen a wide variety of options for the teams to train on and race. “We are very aware of how significant the style of track is in relation to performance. Our competing teams do the same. Some of the university facilities are not Mondo tracks, but the athletes noticed that when they do get to practice on tracks that have Mondo installed, their times are better.”
In the past, the Carroll Stadium had been the site of the 2006 and 2007 USA Track & Field National Championships and the 1988 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials. “Its history of being able to conduct track and field meets was another reason why Indianapolis was chosen,” says Sellers.
Many memorable performances have taken place at the IU Michael A. Carroll Stadium. But the facility is most remembered as the site of Florence Griffith-Joyner's remarkable women's 100m world record of 10.49 seconds at the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials. FloJo followed her 100m performance with a blistering 21.77 U.S. record in the semifinals of the 200 meters. This served as a prelude to her setting the world record twice at the Olympic Games in Seoul with 200m times of 21.56, and then 21.34.
Carl Lewis also made headlines during the 1988 Olympic Trials at Carroll Stadium by winning one of the greatest men's long jump duels in history against fellow National Track & Field Hall of Famer, Larry Myricks. Lewis cleared 28 feet four times and Myricks did it on three occasions. The tense battle that was made even more dramatic as a thunderstorm raged during the competition. Lewis eventually won his 55th consecutive long jump competition with his leap of 8.76 meters/28 feet, 9 inches. Myricks was the runner-up with a best effort of 8.74m/28-8.25.
To ensure the Indiana University track started off with a first-class reputation in 1982, a member of the Stroppiana family, owners of Mondo, was on hand during the installation. He worked closely with installers to make sure all aspects of the track worthy of the Olympic Games was perfect.
“We became involved with the Indiana University stadium in 1982 for the Olympic Sports Festival,” says Craig Mullins, an architect with Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects. “The track had nine lanes, plus a lane inside the curve for recreational runners so they would not put wear and tear on lane one of the official track.”
The unique design of the stadium served a specific purpose, with gentle slopes in the grand stand and a field level that is lower than the nearby roadway. “The whole track is recessed from grade by approximately eight feet which cuts down on the wind factor impacting the field of play,” says Mullins.
“The other reason for lowering the facility was to reduce the mass of the grandstands. The Board of Trustees did not want it to stick up in a rectilinear way. That's why it has a graceful slope up and slope down, with the press box and the bulk of the seating situated in the center at the start/finish line. The design was an outgrowth of the aesthetic direction provided by the Trustees.”
This design did not go unnoticed by the teams in training. “The reason we chose this track for the Paralympic Trials is the way it is designed, with a low profile and the stadium surrounds to give protection from the elements,” says Sellers. “It is been there for a long time, and the track is been resurfaced only once since opening.”
The Mondo track surface was chosen by the architecture team because of the option to custom design the surface. “When we originally installed the Mondo Super X track in 1982, we had the ability to fine tune the hardness of the surface itself,” says Mullins. “There were two layers, and one or both could be made firmer. That enabled us to make the speed of the track faster, and the athletes’ finish times lower. The other significant factor was the overall consistency of the product in terms of thickness, the fact that it was manufactured under strict indoor factory conditions.”
In addition to top features for the competitors, an air-conditioned press box at the top of the stadium can accommodate 72 media positions.
While the IU Michael A. Carroll Stadium is one of the biggest names in track & field, it also serves the IUPUI and Indianapolis communities on a daily basis. It is a facility enjoyed by fitness walkers, runners, joggers, and soccer enthusiasts of all ages, and is the home stadium and practice facility for numerous colleges and high schools in the Indianapolis area.