On Tuesday, Jan. 4, avid runner and Point Loma Nazarene University alum Jimmie Presley (‘99), had the university’s track all to himself; a rare occasion at his oceanfront alma mater.
In the middle of training, Presley was approached by a PLNU staff member, who asked if he was staff, faculty or a current student. When Presley responded that he was an alumnus, he was informed that the track’s usage was reserved for the three stated groups and closed to the public.
Having not been to the track since March 2022, this was news to Presley. Back in July 2021, he was told by PLNU’s Office of Alumni Relations that the track was open to alumni. Since then, he occasionally worked out on the track when no student activities were taking place.
In the interaction with the staff member, Presley was given an exception to use the track that day for being an alumnus. However, he was unsure if the exception meant that he could return to use the track again or if it was just for that one time.
Later that day, Presley emailed PLNU’s Office of Alumni Relations and asked if alumni could be added to the list of those who had access to the track and soccer field. Unable to provide an answer, the Office of Alumni Relations forwarded his question to the Athletic Department.
On Jan. 10, Presley returned to the track and was told by another staff member that alumni could use it, but may be asked to leave. The following day, he re-emailed the Office of Alumni Relations to hear if there was an update on his prior inquiry.
“I communicated this to the alumni office but was told it was still not definite if I could use the track. I was told this is because there are 10,000 alumni in San Diego,” Presley said.
Presley has yet to hear a definitive answer from the Office of Alumni Relations or the Athletic Department despite additional email attempts.
In an interview with The Point, Jeff Bolster, vice president for university services, clarified that alumni still have access to the track and soccer field, yet only when not used by the university’s various departments.
“These are people who have invested in this place and we want to honor that,” Bolster said “But we had to get to a point where we prioritize staff, faculty, and student usage.”
The prioritization stemmed from increased internal usage of the track and soccer field. In 2020 and 2021 the track was used less by PLNU affiliated groups due to COVID-19; however, PLNU has reverted back to hosting its regular functions, including competitive athletic teams, classes, intramurals, events and activities, and general student use.
“Over the past five years, and historically, the soccer field and track are probably our highest-density use of any space across the entire Point Loma campus…so when you list out on a weekly basis our internal usage, we still do not have enough time and space for everything we need to do,” Bolster said.
Bolster praises the collaboration of the university departments, which have made sure that the track and soccer field’s usage has been scheduled accordingly. However, PLNU has also seen a significant increase in outside groups hosting their own workouts on the soccer field while school practices were being held, which poses liability issues.
These reasons prompted PLNU to institute a new policy that closed the track and soccer field to the public at the beginning of the fall 2022 semester according to Bolster.
“We continue to be welcoming to our neighbors. We have birders, dog walkers, parents with strollers, and runners that access the campus, so we try to be both safe and hospitable with the campus,” Bolster said.
As of the fall, signage on the track and soccer field’s gate states that it is for the exclusive use of PLNU staff, faculty, and students. It is also the only way that PLNU has notified the public about the policy change.
After the signs were placed, Point Loma community members who frequent the track and soccer field expressed a desire to be re-granted public access.
Len Davey lives across the street from campus and has been a regular at PLNU’s track since moving to Point Loma in 1993. To be respectful of the university and its athletics, he would go on runs at 5:30 a.m. and run in the outside lane. He has noticed the new signage and recently, that the track has been locked more often.
“I do not know what occurred to make the administration close the track to the public,” Davey said. “I totally understand if the track is closed for organized sports or classes, but when there are no organized events going on, I would expect the track to be open.”
Sue Cox has also been a Point Loma resident since 1993. She would take her children to the track for sports when they were young and in 2005, started using it for personal workouts. Cox sees public access to the track as reciprocated support for being a good neighbor.
“I feel like we haven’t done anything. I do not run on the grass, I am not spitting on the track, or leaving garbage. If large groups are showing up, being loud and disrespectful, then yes that is not cool and unfortunate, but for me, I have very little impact on that track,” Cox said.
While Presley, Davey, and Cox do not like the public closure, they have respected the new policy. All shared hopes that it will be reopened to the public.
“I hope that we can find a way around it to keep the good relations that we have. It doesn’t seem like the PLNU that I have lived next to for nearly thirty years,” Cox said.
Bolster said that if a community member or alumni is concerned about the track and soccer field’s new policy, the university is open to having conversations with them about it.