New cross country facility to host SEC championships

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COLUMBIA - Construction is underway for a new cross country course at Gans Creek Creek Recreation Area, and even before it's done the course is bringing business to the area.

Columbia Parks and Recreation will partner with the MU athletics department to build a championship-level course.

"The goal and timeline has always been the 2021 SEC Championships, so we have a couple years to kind of look down the road for that," Park Services Manager Gabe Huffington said. 

After everything is finished, the course will have a 20-foot timing tower, 1,500-square-foot race operations building, 4,000 square-foot runners' pavilion and a 12-foot by 30-foot finish line structure.

"These extra amenities elevate the course up to what we call a championship-level facility," Huffington said. 

Columbia Parks and Recreation has been given $200,000 from a city parks sales tax to build the running path, parking lot, sidewalks and irrigation system.

MU athletics said they will fund the rest of the project, including all of the amenities. They are expected to bring raise around $760,000.

In the meantime, Huffington said the course will be ready for people to run on by Sept. 2019.

"I'm excited just to know we'll have a facility like this to run at in town," Stephens College cross country coach Nancy Yaeger said. "I need to host our conference meet next year, so having that course out there is perfect for us."

Currently, Stephens College doesn't have a home course. They usually host their meets at Cosmo Park, Yaeger said.

"There are some really good runners in this town and with all the colleges and schools we have here, we can take it a step further to support our running community," Yaeger said. 

The course will have both a 2-kilometer and a 3-kilometer loop that connect so it can be used for different events and age groups.

"We're not just planning on having the SEC Championships here, we want to bring people from all over to come and use this facility," Huffington said. 

The new course could also be the site for the Missouri high school cross country championships and other collegiate events.