With two of track and field's ultimate championships (the 2014 World Junior and the 2016 World Indoor Championships) already nailed down, TrackTown USA, the Eugene, Oregon-based organizing entity, is now in a bidding war to capture the crown jewel of global track and field—the 2019 IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Surpassed only by the Summer Olympic Games and World Cup football, the 10-day World Outdoor Championships are the third-most-watched international championships on the planet. In 2019, with no Olympics or World Cup, track and field will have center stage.
That's a big deal. For a sport looking to rekindle its relevance in the U.S. sporting scene, bringing the championships to America—for the first time ever—would make it a very big deal.
Tiny Eugene (pop. 156,000) will have to resort to its big guns to compete with its metropolitan bidding rivals, Barcelona, Spain, and Doha, Qatar.
One weapon in that arsenal is Eugene's almost unanimous community interest in track and field. A stadium full of knowledgeable and engaged fans is guaranteed at any event hosted at Hayward Field, which is the centerpiece of Eugene's bid. The history, charm and athlete appreciation at Hayward is renowned among track and field aficionados worldwide.
The harder sell will involve something less tangible—the paper blueprints to a major renovation of Hayward Field and environs, which presently lacks the capacity to physically accommodate such a grandiose undertaking as the World Outdoor Championships. But TrackTown is counting on the IAAF to remember this year's World Junior Championships, where it proved its ability—albeit on a smaller scale—to adapt and deliver on its promises.
The visionary and motivating force behind TrackTown USA is its president and spokesman, Vin Lananna. The former coach and administrator at Dartmouth, Stanford and the University of Oregon has presided over the current reign of Eugene and Hayward Field as America's capital of track and field.
I have been very fortunate to have worked with outstanding athletes and now it is my goal to influence the sustainability of the sport.
Along the way, Lananna's group has secured for Eugene the 2008, 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, consecutive NCAA Division I Championships through 2021 and the highly successful World Junior (under 20) Championships held this past July. The World Indoor Championships will come to Portland's Oregon Convention Center in March of 2016.
And it doesn't hurt that influential decision-makers at the sport's highest level, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), have expressed their desire to see the World Outdoor Championships at some point finally land on American soil.
That ultimate prize would be the crowning achievement in TrackTown USA's already impressive portfolio. On November 18 at IAAF headquarters in Monaco, after a final presentation by the three competing cities, a vote will be taken, and the winning bidder will be announced.
On the heels of the IAAF evaluation commission's visit to Eugene and subsequent press conference last week, I had the opportunity to ask Lananna about TrackTown's challenges and the potential ramifications of a successful bid.
Bleacher Report – What is Eugene's biggest area of deficiency?
Vin Lananna – We feel we have an innovative and robust bid which meets, and in some cases, exceeds all of the IAAF requirements to play host to the 2019 IAAF World Championships.
B/R – In the press conference you mentioned your group has both the "human and financial resources" to accomplish a successful world championships. Will it be necessary to ask Eugene for public funding?
V.L. – Will it be necessary? No. Will we reach out? Perhaps.
B/R – Two of your partners—the USATF and the University of Oregon—are partnered with Nike. What, if any, role will Nike play if you go forward?
V.L. – Nike is one of our most valued partners and a big part of the TrackTown USA story.
B/R – You made it clear that an expansion of Hayward Field is inevitable, regardless of the bidding outcome. Will the plans include a capability to remove some seating for smaller meets? Or will the expanded seating be permanently fixed?
V.L. – The renovation of Hayward Field will include an expanded seating capacity from its current configuration. The number of seats is undetermined at this point, but they would be permanent with the ability to add temporary stands if needed.
B/R – In such a rapidly changing world, it's hard to imagine society in five years' time. Is there a flexibility designed into your long-range plan?
V.L. – Absolutely. Our bid has an emphasis on interactive participation and in-stadium production that will be all-inclusive. We believe we will be able to do some innovative things that will encourage all ages to participate in what's happening at Hayward Field.
B/R – Was a marathon course discussed in the evaluation and has a course been determined?
V.L. – Yes. We have multiple options for the marathon course.
B/R - Describe the opportunities for the sport in the U.S. if Eugene wins and track's ultimate meet is held on American soil for the first time ever.
V.L. – We believe we can create a lasting legacy for the sport of track and field in this country if we are fortunate enough to be chosen as hosts for the IAAF 2019 World Championships. We want to inspire a new generation in health and fitness initiatives, increase youth participation, continue to battle child obesity, encourage development of more track and field facilities nationwide, and promote our leadership in sustainability. By allowing American spectators to see the world's best track and field athletes at Hayward Field, the most iconic venue in the U.S., we can ignite a spark that will push the sport forward.
B/R – In the press conference, there was an emphasis on drawing new, young fans. How is TrackTown USA addressing that pursuit?
V.L. – Through our strong partnerships with USATF and USOC, plus our ongoing youth and fitness initiatives such as Oregon Track Club all-comer's meets, kid's clinics, fun runs and Olympic Day at the NCAA Championships.
B/R – Gov. John Kitzhaber sat down to dinner with the commission on Sunday. How will the state of Oregon contribute and benefit if Eugene's bid is successful?
V.L. – As the Governor has often stated, the sport of track and field is deeply rooted in Oregon's DNA, and it is a big part of our future. Oregonians take pride in our contributions to track and field, and in the awe-inspiring athletes who've called Oregon home or raced in our stadiums.
B/R – After having announced your official bid in September, have you received much support outside Oregon?
V.L. – Yes. The USATF, USOC and other individuals and organizations have all expressed strong support and a willingness to partner with us as we move forward with our bid.
B/R – Willamette Valley pollen is a problem in the spring for sensitive athletes and fans. Is this an issue in August?
V.L. – No. We should have ideal weather conditions for all events.
B/R – How are things progressing on the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland?
V.L. – We are making excellent progress on multiple fronts...
B/R – Vin, do you miss the one-on-one of coaching?
V.L. – Of course I miss the day-to-day direct interactions with the athletes, but I am thrilled with the continued success of the [University of Oregon] Ducks. I feel quite satisfied that I can be the coach of younger coaches and that I have the opportunity to positively impact the future aspirations of generations of the youth in our sport. I have been very fortunate to have worked with outstanding athletes and now it is my goal to influence the sustainability of the sport.
—Thanks to Vin Lananna and Curtis Anderson, TrackTown USA's Director of Communications.
Follow Red (@rojosports) on Twitter.