ready to run
Memorial Park invites Houston to grand opening of new, state-of-the-art running complex
Houston’s most popular destination for runners — recently voted one of the best in Texas — just stepped up its game in a major way. Memorial Park will unveil its new, state-of-art running complex on Saturday, November 4.
Encompassing years in planning and construction, this new complex features the 400-meter Roy H. Cullen Timing Track, a viewing deck, an event plaza, several gathering spaces, trails, and more. More than a simple running track, the complex is designed to be a central gathering spot for all Memorial Park visitors, notes Memorial Park Conservancy executive director Shellye Arnold.
The complex will also serve as new gateway to the park’s Bayou Wilds trails.
Locals are invited to a grand opening celebration of the complex (7575 North Picnic Ln.) from 10 am to 2 pm. The free, The family-friendly event will feature music by DJ Johnny J, activities for all ages, giveaways, and more. Pets are welcome at the event; make sure to keep those speedy doggos off the track. A Vendor Village will feature local businesses and organizations including Juice Land, Houston Marathon, HOKA, and Lean Body. Food and drinks including hot dogs, popcorn, and popsicles will be available for purchase.
At 10:30 am, the park will officially open with brief remarks and a ceremonial ribbon cutting by project partners. Then, kids aged 12 and under cab compete in the “Kid’s Dash” on the new 400-meter Roy H. Cullen Timing Track. All young runners will receive a special prize.
Parking is free for the event at the Running Trails Center Parking Lot and Kinder Land Bridge & Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Prairie Parking Lot. Paid parking for $2 is available at the Clay Family Eastern Glades Parking Lot, Sports Complex Parking Lot, Golf Course Parking Lot, Fitness Center Parking Lot, and Tennis Center Parking Lot. Find a parking map here and an event map below; register here (not required).
Map courtesy of Memorial Park Conservancy
This new complex is meant to bring more visitors to multiple areas of the park, Arnold notes, as well as improve track conditions for the thousands who use it, including Houston Astros and Texans players and Olympians. (Olympic legend Carl Lewis is a frequent user.) “The old timing track in the park is just worn down and not really that accurate, and it has strange turns and corners,” Arnold tells CultureMap. “The running complex is very fitting for the park and for Houston.”
Credit goes to the game-changing Ten-Year Plan, which turned the Memorial Park Master Plan marathon into a sprint with an accelerated set of projects via catalyst gift from the Kinder Foundation and various donors. Partners include the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Uptown Development Authority, and Kinder Foundation, and the City of Houston Mayor’s Office.
That means a new experience not just for runners, joggers, and walkers, but all visitors. “It’s a microcosm of the park, a place where a lot of people go and train at four or five in the morning,” adds Arnold. “But it’s a gathering place in the woods. If you think about Memorial Park, part of the whole experience is being immersed in nature. And so this particular timing track is really much more nature immersive than the old timing track.”
Community access is also a priority, for adults and kids. “There are a lot of schools in Houston that don’t have access to a high quality track — or a track at all,” Arnold says. “And so now, their runners can come out and use the track. It won’t be used for meets, because we won’t close it off to the public very often at all. But it’s all about accessibility. Any school in Houston that wants to use it will be able to bring their students out and enjoy it.”
So while running may be the draw, the complex is yet another chance to enjoy Memorial Park’s 1,500 acres and 25 miles worth of trails. “There are places to hang out,” says Arnold. “There will be a cafe that will open up nearby in the first half of 2024 and an event plaza that’s also opening that will be a place to gather or just hang out with a group. Those are some of the many of the reasons that we did this. All the things that we do is to build community and foster a sense of connectedness — and this track will do that.”
The Memorial Park Running Complex (7575 North Picnic Ln.) grand opening runs from 10 am-2 pm Saturday, November 4. Event and some parking is free. Visit the event site for more information.