Right on Track | Sports Destination Management

Right on Track

These Destinations are Running to the Head of the Pack
May 21, 2020 | By: Judy Leand

Photo courtesy of Greensboro CVB
As one of the oldest athletic events in the world,  track and field has been a vital part of both the ancient and modern Olympics and is a mainstay of high school and collegiate athletic programs. 

At the high school level, The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) 2018-19 High School Athletics Participation Survey counted 150,253 indoor track and field participants and 1,093,621 outdoor competitors. The study also found that outdoor track and field ranked second among the top 10 most popular boys’ participation sports (behind only football) and was the No. 1 most popular girls’ participation sport.

As more cities add and expand track and field facilities and host a growing roster of meets, more runners, jumpers and throwers of all ages and ability levels are getting in on the action. Here are eight locales that are ready to help track and field event planners dash toward exciting new opportunities.

Birmingham, Alabama

Photo of Birmingham Crossplex, courtesy of Mason Fischer
The 750,000-square-foot Birmingham CrossPlex is one of the top indoor track and field facilities in the nation. The venue boasts a 200M, six-lane oval hydraulic Mondo track that takes just two minutes to raise or lower for banked corners, and once raised becomes one of the fastest indoor tracks on the planet; in fact, the facility is one of only 10 such venues in the world. 

Within the track’s infield are eight 60M lanes for dash/hurdle events, and dual horizontal runways for pole vault, long jump and triple jump. Outside the oval, dual high jump approaches can be configured along with dual throwing sectors for shot put. All track and field components meet IAAF, NCAA and NFHS standards. Other features include a Lynx timing and scoring system that syncs to a Daktronics LED video board; elevated seating and seven VIP suites that overlook the venue; a warm-up room; a media and operations area and a broadcast box.

“The key months for our indoor track season are December through March,” says David Galbaugh, VP of Sports Sales and Marketing, Greater Birmingham CVB. “When the facility opened in 2011, it generated $20 million in economic impact after that first year. Since then, it has hosted more than 500 events. Hundreds of thousands of people go through the facility annually and the economic impact is significant.” He adds that collegiate meets have comprised the lion’s share of events (NCAA meets are currently in the bid cycle) and the destination is always looking to add other regional and national competitions. “We’re a sports town that loves hosting events and we offer great hospitality,” he says.

Des Moines, Iowa

Located on the campus of Drake University, the 14,557-seat Drake Stadium is the premier track and field venue in Des Moines and is best known as the home of the annual Drake Relays. In 2005, the facility underwent a $15 million renovation and received a Mondo-surface track; permanent lights, concessions, restrooms and seating; an 

indoor warm-up and pole vault area, a video scoreboard; and a two-story press box. 

Ryan Vogt, National Sports Manager, Catch Des Moines, points out that spring and summer are the key seasons for track and field events. In addition to the Drake Relays, the stadium has hosted the USATF Outdoor Championships (2010, 2013, 2018 and 2019); the AAU Junior Olympic Games, the largest youth track meet in the world with more than 10,000 athletes (2009, 2014, 2018 and on the docket for 2023); and the Iowa High School State Co-ed Championships which is the largest such competition in the country.

“The USATF Outdoor Championships is a pro event and features the USA’s top track and field athletes. It was shown on NBC in primetime and on NBCCSN, and the economic impact exceeded $2.4 million,” Vogt says. “The AAU Junior Olympic Games had an economic impact of more than $16.5 million, and the Iowa High School State Co-ed Championships see nearly 40,000 fans through the gates during a three-day meet in the spring.” Going forward, he remarks, “We’re open to attracting any and all events!”

Durham, North Carolina

Durham’s flagship sports facility is the Durham County Memorial Stadium, situated just outside of the city’s downtown area. The venue recently completed a $1.4 million renovation that included a complete resurfacing of the eight-lane track and javelin pit using a Beynon BS2000RE encapsulated surface, and a newly constructed hammer-discus cage. The stadium also provides two locker rooms, concessions on both the home and visiting sides, and this year plans to add a beer garden for adult events. 

“Durham is unique as the home to two NCAA Division I universities and a rich youth track and field culture,” says Alyssa Duke, Senior Manager, Events & Operations for Durham Sports Commission. “We typically host three to five youth track meets per year, senior games, and collegiate track and field meets.” She notes that the stadium has hosted events put on by local, regional and national organizations including USATF, USATF-North Carolina, Big Eight Athletic Conference, Powerade State Games, North Carolina Senior Games and other local clubs. The 2019 USATF Youth Outdoor Championships drew 12,265 attendees and had an economic impact of $5,541,252. 

“Durham is always open to adding more track and field events to the roster, and all demographics of track and field athletes are welcome,” says Duke. “We are continually working to grow existing events as well as add others.” 

Greensboro, North Carolina

This destination is a track and field hotbed, with the chief facility being the 23,000-seat Irwin Belk Track and Field Complex located in BB&T Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University. The multi-purpose track and field venue houses an IAAF certified 400M oval track with eight 48” running lanes and a Mondo Super X Olympic-style surface. 

(Resurfacing of the track surface is scheduled for this year.) Field event areas include dual-direction runways for long jump, triple jump and pole vault; a multi-directional high jump; and brushed concrete shot put and discus circles. Housed inside BB&T Stadium is The Bryan Fitness & Wellness Center that provides locker rooms, a training room, a weight training room and meeting space. 

Major events previously held at the complex include the AAU Junior Olympic Games, USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, New Balance Nationals Outoor, NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field East Preliminary Championships, and Mid Eastern Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

“Since its completion in 2004, the Irwin Belk Track & Field Complex has hosted events drawing approximately 340,000 attendees, averaging about 20,000 visitors annually. About 95 percent come from outside a 50-mile radius. These visitors have generated an economic impact of $254 million since 2004,” says Brian Ambuehl, National Sales Manager for Greensboro, North Carolina CVB. He notes that annual visitor attendance in future years is estimated to exceed 30,000.

Lake County, Florida

Based in Clermont, in the Lake County region of Florida, the Orlando Health National Training Center Track & Field Complex is a premium facility that offers warm-weather training year-round and is managed by PURE Athletics. The PURE Athletics Track Club trains athletes from beginner level/youth through the professional level. 

The venue features a 400M track with an impermeable synthetic Eurotan Premier Sandwich surface. It also has a grass infield and boasts two long jump and triple jump runways with pits at each end, two pole vault runways with one Monster Pit in the middle, two shot put/discus/hammer cages, two javelin runways, and one high jump pit and apron. Other amenities include an Olympic size pool, weight room, locker rooms, classrooms, and sports performance services.

“Every year we host multiple track and field events that include high school, AAU and pro meets,” says Mateo De Angulo, Sports Business Coordinator, Orlando Health National Training Center. “For larger events like the AAU track meet, we have around 1,200 athletes and 2,400 spectators. For events such as our Pro meets, we will draw 300 athletes and about 200 spectators.” He points out that the NTC hosts four to five events annually and is always looking for opportunities to add more.

Laredo, Texas

Special Olympics and girls’ and boys’ high school track meets take center stage in Laredo at two main venues: The United Independent School District Student Activity Center and Laredo Independent School District Shirley Field. Both locations offer nine-lane, all-weather urethane tracks, large concession stands and large locker rooms with attached coaches’ rooms. 

“Most of our track and field events are regional within Texas,” says Joel Vazquez, Assistant Director, Laredo CVB. “The biggest meet that the Student Activity Center hosts is the Border Olympics Track & Field, which draws more than 1,000 athletes and has an economic impact of $150,000. We host more than 20 out-of-town schools plus locals, and the average stay is two nights.” The Border Olympics event began in 1932 and is now in its 88th year.

Vazquez notes that because Laredo has great weather in the spring while many other cities face cold temperatures, “we’re trying to attract other high schools and universities to start their seasons with us.”

Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

Track and field is a big deal at this destination, where indoor and outdoor facilities at Lehigh University host a wide range of events. Key venues are the Goodman Campus Outoor Track, Rauch Fieldhouse Indoor Track, and Goodman Campus Cross Country Course. The outdoor track offers a rubberized track surface; the indoor track has a Mondo surface; and the cross-country venue allows athletes to run 5K, 6K, 8K and 10K courses without repeating any loops. 

Outdoor track events have included Lehigh University camps and clinics, three to four Lehigh University meets per year, the Patriot League Championship every four to five years, and the Lehigh University Relay for Life. The Rauch Fieldhouse has hosted Lehigh University indoor meets and clinics, about 20 meets for various high school associations, Middle Atlantic Conference Championships and PSAC Conference Championships. Cross country competitions have included the Paul Short meet, NCAA DI and DII Regional Championships, Landmark Conference Championship, NIRCA Championships, USATF Club Nationals, and PIAA District XI and District I Championships.

“Lehigh University attracts youth, high school and collegiate athletes and is also open to post-college events,” says Bree Nidds, VP of Sales, Discover Lehigh Valley. “Although our indoor events are currently at capacity, outdoor is capable of adding one or two meets and there is also potential to increase cross country.”

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

In 2017, Myrtle Beach picked up its pace in track and field with a $5 million-plus renovation of Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium. The facility has a capacity of 4,500 and features an NCAA certified 400M track with a Beynon Sports Surfaces full pour polyurethane synthetic surface. 

The stadium also delivers a gated entry plaza with two permanent shelters, Musco LED lights for night events, a Daktronics LED video board, and a modernized press box. Two permanent concession stands, seven permanent restrooms, two officials’ locker rooms, an air-conditioned support building, and an equipment building complete the package.

“There are typically five to six annual meets held at the stadium and additional events such as NCAA Championships, collegiate conference championships and USA Track & Field sanctioned state and regional meets are bid on a regular basis,” says Jonathan Paris, Executive Director of Sports Tourism, Visit Myrtle Beach. “Spring and early summer are the main track and field seasons, and the City of Myrtle Beach even created the Myrtle Beach Spring Break Meet series that highlights two collegiate events—the Coastal Carolina Invitational and the Alan Connie Shamrock Invitational—along with the Beach Run Invitational high school meet.” 

“With the investment made into the renovation of the stadium, and specifically the creation of a world-class track and field facility, we are focused on attracting elite collegiate meets and high-level USA Track & Field sanctioned club meets,” Paris comments. “We have made track and field a focus sport in our sports tourism initiatives.”  SDM