Refurbished track has its first race in Camden County

The first race gets underway in the newly-refurbished running track at Jack Curtis Stadium in Camden. (Tom MacDonald / WHYY)

The first race gets underway in the newly-refurbished running track at Jack Curtis Stadium in Camden. (Tom MacDonald / WHYY)

An old running track that dates back to the 1930s has been revitalized at a cost of $1.2 million as part of an overhaul of parks in Camden County.

Jack Curtis Stadium sits on the banks of the Cooper River and was in need of repair. It had an old gravel track, and Commissioner Jeff Nash said people got bits of it stuck on their clothes every time they used the facility. Piece by piece the track was getting carried away into people’s homes.

The grandstands were built with funding from the WPA, or Works Progress Administration, a signature program of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Now with more than $1 million in renovations, the facility has a new track, a new infield, and a stage for concerts and other events. The old bleachers have also been restored to their former glory.

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The work is part of the county’s Parks Alive 2025 program, which Nash says is investing “tens of millions of dollars in all corners of Camden County’s parks to revitalize, reinvent and restore Camden County’s historic park system. All 24 parks.”

The new track has a cushioned running surface designed for everyone from serious track clubs to amateur runners.

Navon Soumilas is a member of Running 856 club. She said, “oftentimes we don’t have the access to tracks because high schools are limited and they don’t let some people in, you know, outsiders in for school protection. This gives us a great opportunity to practice our speed work, which we need for our races that we do year-round.” She believes the upgraded surface will give local runners the track they need to be able to compete with others who have access to better surfaces.

Pennsauken Mayor Jessica Rafeh was proud of the new facility, and wanted to show it off to the other county officials, challenging them to a race on the new track.

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“These amazing upgrades mean the more people will be better, give more opportunities to enjoy and use this wonderful space to get outside and enjoy some of the much-needed fresh air to exercise and de-stress from our hectic lives. To celebrate open spaces. And to get connected to nature.”

Jill Chestnut heads the South Jersey Track and Field Club. She believes all children would benefit from being involved in a team sport. “Our mutual goal of creating a community hub to allow more safety nets for kids is realized with the newly remodeled track. As a club, we’re focused on athletics, but we believe that all kids, too, deserve to experience being part of a team, being well coached, and participating in the best aspects of competition, regardless of ability or talent.”

The facility is not just for sporting events, it’s got a stage for concerts and other public events, a paved walking track, and other amenities to service the entire county.

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