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CSU sues over ‘defective’ athletic track

Dominique Jackson runs on the track during her training session at Sacramento State on Tuesday in Sacramento. California State University is suing Mondo USA Inc. alleging that the $800,000 track it purchased in 2014 is fading, stained and “unsuitable” for its intended use. The track has been used for international and national track trials, along with other national and regional track and field events.
Dominique Jackson runs on the track during her training session at Sacramento State on Tuesday in Sacramento. California State University is suing Mondo USA Inc. alleging that the $800,000 track it purchased in 2014 is fading, stained and “unsuitable” for its intended use. The track has been used for international and national track trials, along with other national and regional track and field events. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Sacramento State officials expected the $1.4 million resurfacing job on its athletic tracks to improve the school’s image as a prime destination in the track and field world. Instead, the university is headed to court.

The eight-lane 400-meter track and two-lane 400-meter warm-up track, completed in May 2014, began to show signs of deterioration within two months of completion, according to the lawsuit filed last month by California State University against Mondo USA Inc. The tracks, resurfaced with gold and green in the relay exchange zones and on the interior, were faded and showed staining, the lawsuit said.

California State University is asking for unspecified damages, attorneys fees and court costs. Mondo USA could not be reached for comment for this story. The university filed the lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court alleging breach of contract, breach of warranty and negligence.

The Sacramento State track has been used for high-profile national and international track meets both before and after it was resurfaced, including for the U.S. Track and Field Championships in 2014 and the Junior Olympics in 2016, according to Bob Burns, spokesman for the Sacramento Sports Commission, which is part of Visit Sacramento. The U.S. Track and Field Championships are scheduled to return in June.

The Sacramento Sports Commission paid $1.2 million of the cost to resurface the track, according a news release from the organization.

Initially, university officials seemed excited about the new track, which they said was one of the first in the world to feature Mondo’s Super X720 surface. The reformulated rubber surface was supposed to have exceptional traction, durability and safety, according to the university.

“This undoubtedly will enable us to host more national-class track competitions as well as recruit more top-notch track and field athletes,” said Kathleen Raske, former CSUS director of track and field in an article posted on the university’s website in 2014.

The suit contends that Mondo failed to meet its obligations and honor its five-year warranty despite knowing that it could ruin Sacramento State’s reputation as a venue for local, state, national and international competitions.

“We are continuing to work with Mondo in regard to our concerns,” read the only statement issued by the university on the lawsuit.

Sacramento State representatives reached by The Bee would not say whether the university has lost any contracts for track meets because of the allegedly deteriorating surface. Mike Sophia, director of the Sacramento Sports Commission, said the university hasn’t lost any contracts.

“The track is in great shape from a performance standpoint,” he said. “From Sac State’s perspective they purchased a finely engineered automobile and it wasn’t what they paid for. I understand that.”

He said the green on the track changed over the months. “If you didn’t know what color green they intended to purchase and what color it was when it first went down … you probably won’t realize what is wrong.”

According to the lawsuit, Mondo USA blamed the university’s maintenance staff for the deterioration, although the university denies that allegation.

Mondo USA tried to fix the problems by cleaning and treating the tracks, according to the university. The most recent attempt, in November, resulted in test sections that were slippery, further compromising the performance of the track, said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit called the tracks “defective” and said Mondo’s attempts to fix them made them “dangerous and unfit for its intended use.”

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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