Penn Athletics Director Alanna Shanahan announced that the University would begin construction on a new state-of-the-art center for track and field at the Penn Board of Trustees meeting on March 4.
Due to begin construction this August and be completed by May of 2024, the facility, named the Jane and David Ott Center for Track & Field, will become the new hub for Penn’s track and field program. The project is currently wrapping up its design development phase and will soon enter into construction documents and bidding. The facility will cost $69.35 million.
The center was first announced in October of 2019 with a projected completion date of 2022, but the initiative was delayed due to changes in construction planning.
The facility was first expected to span 63,000 square feet as of plans in 2019, but the final facility will encompass 73,000 gross square feet. According to its official listing on Penn Facilities & Real Estate Services, the center will have “a banked track, long and high jump pits, a throwing area, and 990 spectator seats.”
With all the impressive features of the facility, Shanahan is optimistic that the Ott Center will help attract future recruiting prospects to Penn’s track and field program.
“Obviously, from [a] recruiting [perspective], prospective student-athletes are always enamored with shiny objects — this will be one incredibly shiny object, and it will be wonderful as far as to what it will offer our prospective student-athletes and, ideally, their eventual enrollment at Penn,” Shanahan said.
Additionally, Shanahan is enthusiastic that the facility will allow Penn to host more track meets at home during the indoor track and field season.
“It would be lovely not to have to travel pretty much every weekend in order to be able to compete, so our teams would be excited to have four additional weekends competing in our backyard on our venue,” Shanahan said. “It allows us to host track championships during the indoor track season. We are actually moving out of the outdoor track championship rotation, so an indoor track will allow us the opportunity to host an Ivy League indoor track championship in the winter track season, so [we’re] excited for that as well.”
Outside of Penn track and field, Shanahan mentioned that the Ott Center will also host the Young Quakers Community Athletics program, Penn Athletics’ partnership with the Netter Center to work with middle school youth in the West Philadelphia community. The center will also host youth track meets beyond the Penn Relays.
The facility itself will be bounded on the north by the Hollenback Center, on the east by the expressway near River Fields Drive, on the west by the SEPTA and Amtrak train tracks, and on the south by Rhodes Field.
The Ott name on the title of the building comes by way of Jane and David Ott, who are both Wharton and Penn track and field alumni. The couple met on the team and graduated in 1987 and 1985, respectively, and are one of three primary donors of the project.
Penn track and field head coach Steve Dolan wrote about his vision for the facility when it was first announced.
"It will immeasurably enhance Penn's intercollegiate track & field program by providing a modern venue for year-round training and meets," Dolan wrote in 2019. "What's more, the Ott Center will serve as the year-round home for the cross country and track & field teams, and an indoor warm-up area for the Penn Relays."