Bigger meets, including the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships, will follow, but Saturday’s Frigid Bee Opener serves an important purpose for the St. Ambrose men’s and women’s indoor track programs.
The four-team meet will be the first competition hosted on the Roell Indoor Track at the new $21.5 million Wellness & Recreation Center on the St. Ambrose campus.
"We’ve hosted indoor meets in the past in Sterling, so to be able to host something like this on campus is something we’re really excited about," Bees coach Dan Tomlin said. "It’s an early meet, mostly a starting point for us, but to have a chance to compete in front of family and friends and show off our facility is awesome."
The fieldhouse facility is a six-lane, 200-meter track with eight sprint lanes as well as facilities for all field events.
Saturday’s invitational will also be a dry run of sorts, a chance for Tomlin, his staff and St. Ambrose officials to learn about how their new facility will work when it hosts future meets.
Mount Mercy, Culver-Stockton and Sterling (Kan.) will participate in the meet, which begins with field events at 11 a.m. and running competition at noon.
The three participating teams were handpicked by Tomlin, coached by friends, to essentially test the facility.
"It’s a good chance for us to learn and get a live look at how our new facility will work when it hosts a competition," Tomlin said. "What we learn this weekend from an operational standpoint will help us when we host meets later on in the season."
St. Ambrose will put its new facility to work in January and February as well.
The Bees will host Augustana, Monmouth, Grand View and St. Francis (Ill.) in an invitational on Jan. 13 and then welcome a field of about a dozen mostly NAIA teams to the Fighting Bee Invitational on Jan. 27.
The two-day CCAC Indoor Championships will be held at St. Ambrose on Feb. 16-17.
"We’re proud of our new facility. It changes our program, it changes recruiting and it allows us to bring championship-caliber events to our campus," Tomlin said. "It’s an exciting time. We’re looking forward to Saturday, seeing how everything works and then learning from it."
All four indoor meets St. Ambrose will host this season are open to the public. Admission for Saturday’s Frigid Bee Opener is $5.