Eugene, Ore., will host the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials upon completion of the new Hayward Field stadium redesign, USA Track and Field announced Thursday.
The news of the host city for the trials was first reported by Ken Goe of The Oregonian on Wednesday night. The trials will feature eight days of competition from June 19 to 28.
“No domestic event is more important to athletes and fans than the Olympic Trials,” USATF Chairman of the Board Steve Miller said in a statement. “The 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials is even more critical because it will lead off an unprecedented opportunity to elevate track & field in this country. Having continuity in location as we move from the Olympic Trials into 2021 will enhance and amplify everything around the sport in the United States, from marketing and promotions to operational efficiencies.”
This will mark the seventh time that Eugene has hosted the Olympic trials and the fourth consecutive staging. USATF did not come upon the decision to award the trials to Eugene with ease. The trials were first given to Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., in June 2017, but the governing body decided to pull out and re-open the bidding process due to continuing litigation regarding the construction of Hilmer Lodge Stadium. Austin, Eugene and Sacramento were the three cities being considered as Plan B.
Eugene, led by the TrackTown USA organizing committee, was considered a favorite after revealing plans for a total redesign of Hayward Field ahead of hosting the 2021 IAAF World Championships. (The 2021 World Championships open up a whole other round of controversy regarding the world governing body awarding the championships to Eugene without a normal bidding process and then a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.) The new stadium is expected to seat 12,900 fans but can expand to hold 30,000, which is the minimum capacity required by the IAAF to host a global championship.
Just last week, Saul Hubbard of the Register-Guardreported that in order to hit that 30,000 mark, some fans will have to stand in ‘fill-in” zones designated throughout the stadium. Those familiar with the stadium plans had been quiet about how that minimum capacity was going to be reached.
Bulldozers started taking down Hayward Field shortly after the completion of June’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and now very little remains of the 99-year-old stadium. The new Hayward Field is expected to be ready by April 2020, which means that the trials would be the first major meet hosted at the new stadium. The trials would be the ultimate dress rehearsal before the world’s best come to compete in 2021.
As for the other cities that fell short in the bidding process: Austin was recently awarded the 2019 and 2020 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Sacramento hosted the 2017 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships in very hot conditions, which may have hurt its chances of hosting the upcoming trials. Sacramento last hosted the trials in 2000 and 2004. The 2019 national championship will be held at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Olympic Trials in Eugene will give Hayward Field a truly ceremonial grand opening that would be expected in a project backed by Phil Knight and more than 50 other donors. Of course, the stadium has to get done in time, so the pressure is on for organizers to deliver. As is the case when a modernized stadium replaces a traditional one, there is a reputation to uphold. Runners often credit “Hayward Magic” as a proverbial reason behind incredible performances on the track, but we will see how it translates to snazzier design.