Venues Suited to Victories
24 Apr, 2019By: Tracey Schelmetic
In recent years, the National Federation of State High School Associations’ annual High School Athletics Participation Survey has found that track and field is one of the largest and fastest-growing sports among high school athletes. Record participation necessitates more first-class facilities, and many tracks are positioning themselves for dominance with modernization.
“We have a formula for selection in all sports,” Mike Higgins, Director of Championships at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), told Sports Destination Management. “We have focused heavily on surveys of student athletes who have participated at our national championships. There are two factors that begin the analysis of potential sites: the venue and the host’s ability to create an exciting in-venue experience.”
Higgins said planners should ask themselves, “Would the athlete feel the venue is championship worthy?” Secondly, he notes, planners should ensure the venue has the necessary amenities as well as space for spectators. He notes event owners should consider the host’s ability to attract local fans, and to add exciting event operations elements such as a sound, video and special effects.
“Venues that are too small create participant dissatisfaction and those that are too big aren’t able to deliver on the in-venue experience,” said Higgins.
Des Moines, Iowa
Drake University’s Drake Stadium is a storied track, known locally as the “famous blue oval and home to the Drake Relays since 1926.” The 14,000-seat stadium has hosted the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships (2008, 2011, 2012) and the AAU Junior Olympics (2004, 2009, 2014, 2018 and 2023), which has attracted more than 10,000 athletes. It has also been home to the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships (2010, 2013, 2018, 2019) and the Annual Co-ed State High School Track and Field Championships, which brought in more than 30,000 fans.
Des Moines is three hours from Kansas City and Minneapolis and five hours from Chicago. There are over 13,000 hotel rooms in the area, and a downtown location with restaurants, shopping and numerous attractions for downtime. The local CVB offers event planners many services, including sponsorships, housing, local referrals, marketing support and volunteers.
“Greater Des Moines is affordable, easy and surprisingly cool,” said Ryan Vogt, national sales manager for Catch Des Moines. “We’re a city that offers athletes, coaches and fans the food, culture and facilities they’re looking for without the long lines, traffic and big price tag.”
Historic Hayward Field has hosted six U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials (1972, 1976, 1980, 2008, 2012 and 2016), and the 20,000-seat venue will host the 2020 trials. It has seen 15 NCAA DI Outdoor Track and Field Championships as well as the Prefontaine Classic annually since 1975.
Janis Ross, executive director of Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission, said the venue is in the final stages of a multimillion-dollar renovation in advance of the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in 2021.
“When completed in spring 2020, it will be the finest outdoor track and field facility in the U.S. and arguably the world,” she said.
In addition to Hayward, Eugene has practice venues nearby including Lane Community College and two high schools. Lake County offers 6,000 hotel rooms as well as drive-in accessibility due to its location on I-5. Outdoor activities are plentiful, with the Oregon coast an hour away. Downtown Eugene features shopping, dining and arts, and the CVB has a portfolio of services to offer.
“We provide enhanced hospitality and accommodations services to our larger events,” said Ross. “Accessibility, equity and sustainability are foundational values for our destination, and we’re able to connect planners with local resources.”
Lake County, Florida
Each year, the NTC Track & Field Complex in Clermont hosts approximately five large events, including a high school track meet that has attracted more than 2,700 participants, a youth AAU meet, two pro track meets and a cross country meet. The pro track meets attract hundreds of professional athletes. All meets are organized and operated by Pure Athletics, which manages the NTC Complex.
The NTC Complex is an outdoor, 400-meter track and field facility with an impermeable surface as well as throws and jumps facilities, a 37,000-square-foot fitness facility and an aquatic center. The region has 2,700 hotel rooms, and the Orlando International Airport is just 31 miles away.
“Lake County has ample opportunities for downtime activities, including watersports such as paddle boarding and watercraft rentals, off-road adventures, bicycle rentals and more,” said Kim Couch, director of the NTC. “The NTC is located close to all of Central Florida’s major theme parks and is approximately 90 miles from Florida’s beaches on both the east and west coasts of Florida.”
Visit Lake offers multiple services to event planners, including sponsorships and grants, marketing, site selection, housing, planning and logistics.
Lubbock has the advantage of proximity to Texas Tech University’s indoor and outdoor tracks. The indoor track has hosted nine track meets this year as well as the Big 12 Indoor Championship, Lone Star Conference Championship and NJCAA National Indoor Championship. The outdoor track has hosted five meets. The events draw between 700 and 1,500 athletes and 500 to 5,000 spectators.
“These tracks have all the perks you need to run a great event including a timing system, blocks, hurdles, video board, warm-up area, etc.,” said Scott Harrison, Sports Director for Lubbock Sports. “We also have two high school tracks and one district track where we can host meets.”
Lubbock boasts more than 5,500 hotel rooms, and the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport is a 17-minute drive from anywhere in the city. It’s also accessible for drive-in visitors. For the off-hours, Lubbock features dining, shopping, an adventure park and race-through the speedway.
Lubbock Sports provides event planners with a variety of services to make events successful, including assistance with accommodations, visitor guides and day-of hospitality.
Rockford sees a steady stream of track and field events because of the efforts of the Rockford Park District, the AAU and local schools. The AAU Indoor Northern Nationals have been held in Rockford since 2016 at the new Auburn High School Field House, the region’s best indoor track facility. Auburn High School’s outdoor track hosts the AAU Track and Field Central District Championships in June. Both events draw hundreds of athletes.
“We have arguably the nation’s best drive-in market: Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Indianapolis and St. Louis are all within a four-and-a-half-hour drive,” said Nick Povalitis of the Rockford CVB. “Accessibility, unparalleled facilities and seasoned sports professionals serve as the cornerstone for our sales and marketing efforts.”
There are 2,600 hotel rooms in Winnebago County, and downtown there are museums, an arena, theaters and Japanese gardens. There’s also a strong local food scene. The Rockford area CVB prides itself on creating the right experience for event directors, athletes and attendees.
“We help with event operations, housing arrangements, event marketing, planning, execution and more,” said Povalitis. “It’s our responsibility to ensure the experience is good so that we can keep bringing visitors back.”
Rutherford County, Tennessee
Rutherford County’s premier event is the TSSAA State Championship, which attracts more than 500 participants and 3,000 spectators to Murfreesboro’s Dean A. Hayes Stadium. The stadium was also host of the 2000 Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championships and the 2016 Conference USA Outdoor Championships.
The track complex offers a large adjoining field for warm-ups and tents, a concession stand and stadium seating. The running surface has eight 42-inch lanes, and the infield features long jump and triple jump runways, a pole vault runway, high jump area, shotput area and a discus cage.
The track is close to more than 5,000 hotel rooms and features extensive parking throughout Middle Tennessee State University’s campus. Downtown Murfreesboro has dining, shopping and indoor attractions, and there are outdoor activities on the Greenway Trail and Boro Beach Water Park.
“We offer planners assistance with negotiating contracts for venues, services and rates, room blocks, downtime itinerary planning, transportation, referrals for service providers, photography, public relations and welcome bags,” said Shana Miller, director of communications and marketing for the Rutherford County CVB.
Tacoma has played host for the last five years to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) 2A, 3A, 4A State Track and Field Championships. This year, the event will be held in May and is expected to draw more than 2,500 athletes and 10,000 spectators to the Mt. Tahoma High School stadium, which is robust enough to host all state-recognized events.
Eighteen miles from SeaTac airport, Tacoma has 960 rooms in the downtown area, with 300 more to come by spring of 2020. For the off-hours, Tacoma has museums, a waterfront area and a variety of dining options. The Tacoma South Sound Sports Commission connects event planners with local knowledge, event itineraries, visitor guides and more, according to its president and CEO, Dean Burke.
“We have a dedicated staff that can work through event logistics planning, hotel and hospitality coordination and event sponsorship,” he said. “We have a dedicated marketing group that enables us to reach our clients on all social media platforms. We work closely with event planners to ensure that their event here in the South Sound is a fantastic experience.”
The Tri-Cities is home to Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco, one of the most recognized track and field venues in Eastern Washington. Built in 1957 and renovated in 2014, the stadium has hosted the Pasco Invitational (or Invite, as it’s colloquially known) since 1962. In addition, there is the recently resurfaced Fran Rish Stadium, and a dedicated cross-country facility, Big Cross in Pasco.
In addition to the Pasco Invite, the Tri-Cities region hosts the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association State Cross Country Championships as well as the USA Track & Field Inland Northwest Association Track & Field Championships, the WIAA 3A/4A District 8 Regional Track & Field Championships and the USA Track & Field Inland Northwest Association Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships.
The region is accessible to the metropolitan areas of the Pacific Northwest including Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Spokane, Portland and Boise. It features over 4,000 hotel rooms and indoor and outdoor activities, particularly water sports along the Columbia River. The CVB offers tours of venues, hotels and attractions, community relations and promotions.
“We prepare a consolidated document outlining the pricing and amenities offered by area hotels,” said Hector Cruz, VP of Visit Tri-Cities Washington. “Working with our staff will require one conversation rather than the task of making multiple phone calls.”
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem features several track and field forums, including facilities at Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University, as well as the JDL Fast Track. The latter houses a 200-meter oval track with a Mondotrack FTX surface, two pole vault runways, two long/triple jump runways, one high jump apron and one throws area. There is also a 100-meter warm-up track, meeting-room space, a training room and hospitality suites.
The JDL Fast Track has hosted the 2014 NCAA DII and 2015 NCAA DIII Indoor Track & Field Championships, the 2015 USATF Masters Indoor National Championship, and the 2016 NJCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. The USATF Masters Indoor National Championships returned to the JDL Fast Track in March 2019, and the NCAA DIII Indoor Track & Field Championships will return in 2020. Attendance has been substantial at these events, with the 2019 Masters attracting 1,026 athletes and 500 spectators.
Winston-Salem is 300 miles from both Atlanta and Washington, 80 miles from Charlotte and 100 miles from Raleigh. Thanks to nearly $2 billion in development, the downtown area is primed for visitors with restaurants, nightclubs, artists’ studios and shopping.
“Forbes named Winston-Salem to their ‘Top 10 Best Downtowns’ and one of the ‘Where to go Next: 14 Best Places to Travel in the U.S. in 2019,’” said Bonny Bernat, sports and events sales manager for Visit Winston-Salem.
Visit Winston-Salem can assist with housing, local experiences, off-site planning, registration and promotional videos, and can recruit volunteers. SDM
2019 USATF National Youth Outdoor
Championships Coming to Durham, NC
The City of Durham will welcome an influx of athletes this summer as the 2019 USATF Youth Outdoor National Championships comes to the Bull City.
The Durham Sports Commission (DSC) is hosting the event that will draw as many as 6,000 athletes, ages 8-18, traveling to Durham for the championships on June 25-30, 2019. With a rich tradition in the sport in the Bull City, the DSC is looking to provide athletes and fans with a memorable experience both on and off the track.
Held at Durham County Memorial Stadium (which is undergoing a $1.4 million improvement that will include the installation of a hammer throw cage and a resurfaced track), the six-day meet will be the first national championship for youth track and field in Durham.
Further information, including registration, athlete information and a full schedule of events, can be found via the website, https://www.durhamusatf2019.com