Retired Olympian Ato Boldon helps put Miramar on track for elite events

I I live down the street from this new track. I plan to start training there when it opens. Maybe I can get some Free tips from ato. lol:eek::smiley:,0,4747668.story

Retired Olympian Ato Boldon helps put Miramar on track for elite events
New $15 million track and stadium complex to serve youths as well as world-class athletes

By Rachel Hatzipanagos | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
January 26, 2009

Miramar - Ato Boldon squats and rubs his fingers over a yellow mark on the track of the Ansin Sports Complex.

Like hash marks in a door frame marking a child’s height, each line on the eight-lane track carries progress and significance. A millimeter off could affect a race’s outcome; a slight slope could invalidate scores. Each line was a decision Boldon, a sprinter in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, had to make.

“I know the track like a member of my family,” he says.

The object of his dedication and reputation is set to open Feb. 14 at the complex near Miramar Parkway and Palm Avenue. Miramar officials are banking on the $15 million track and stadium complex serving area youths and attracting world-class athletic meets, and hoping the magic that goes with Boldon’s involvement will give the project a strategic edge over its South Florida competitors.

The complex is named for the Ansin family, owners of Sunbeam Properties, developers of the Miramar Park of Commerce. They donated the 24-acre tract appraised at $2.7 million in 2000, according to the county property appraiser’s office. They also gave $1 million toward the construction, city officials said.

Boldon, 35, planned to start a foundation for athletes after he retired from professional running in 2004. Headquarters of his Born 2 Do It Foundation are at the Ansin Sports Complex, which also includes a cricket practice facility and visitor’s center.

“This is something that I always wanted to do at some point in my life,” he explained. “I was once a young kid from a Caribbean island who came here, got faster, got a scholarship and turned pro … Now I want to get the new talent faster and make them more attractive to the college recruiter.”

The potential benefit to the city is the possibility of international meets. The stadium’s initial seating capacity will be 2,100, with room to expand to 7,000.

“Everyone who builds a track wants to have an international meet,” said Robin Beamon, president of USA Track & Field, Florida, the local chapter of the sport’s national governing body. “I’m not surprised that they are going after that type of clientele.”

They aren’t the only municipality in the race, however. Lauderhill also has been in talks about building a track and field stadium. And Miami-Dade County is in the running.

Competition is hot for meets promising loads of cash from tourists and athletes. Eugene, Ore., which bills itself as “Track Town, U.S.A.,” expects to receive $9.6 million after its national meet this year, said Lisa Lawton, spokeswoman for their tourism office.

What could make a difference in attracting meets to Miramar is the name Ato Boldon. The four-time Olympic medalist was an NBC commentator at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and still works for the network as a correspondent.

“Ato Boldon would do wonders to help them,” Beamon said. “He can help get your foot in the door. … Does it give them a foothold above the others? Absolutely.”

Boldon has started working his contacts, including Olympic athlete Lauryn Williams, who will make an appearance at the February track unveiling. Other stars, such as Sanya Richards, who graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, were unconfirmed as of Friday.

“New York, Oregon, a bunch of states have professional track and field, but South Florida has none,” Boldon said. “For a state that has produced the level of track and field that this state has, it’s ridiculous.”

He also has volunteered to ensure the track is up to code for international races. On a recent overcast and muggy day, he points out water puddles on the infield.

“If water collects on the track and doesn’t run off, that could eventually start affecting the rubber,” Boldon said.

That surface is not made out of just any type of rubber. It’s the $1 million Mondo Super X Performance track, the same material used for races in last summer’s Beijing Olympics.

“There are going to get a lot of kids here who are focused on their 40,” Boldon said. “We know how important it is to kids to have a good 40-yard dash.”

The dash is the main measure of an athlete’s speed and a vital test for the high school athlete looking to win a college athletic scholarship.

Boldon recently moved to Miramar from California to be closer to his fiancee. A friend of hers who is a city staffer spread the word and, soon, the city made contact with Boldon about working on the Ansin complex.

“I was hearing about the vision the city had, and the vision that he had, and they just fit,” said Vernon Hargray, assistant city manager of operational services.

Hargray also knows his way around a track.

“Everyone can’t be an Olympian, but I ran track on a four-year scholarship at Florida A&M,” he said. He was raised by his single mother in Liberty City and still remembers his coach at Brownsville Middle School, Ronnie Coleman.

“Someone reached out there and changed my whole paradigm because he cared,” Hargray said. “We have the responsibility to reach these children. We want to reach out for our kids and use every resource available.”

After a first year focused on the youth programs, the city will work on the international meets.

“We look at Ansin as an extension to the town center,” Hargray said. “Visitors can come to the town center and eat. … Now there’s the Ansin field. We want everyone to get a piece of what is going on here.”

Rachel Hatzipanagos can be reached at or 954-385-7946.