The fans on day 1 totaled 2,715. The fans on day 2, totaled 3,314. The fans on day 3 totaled 3,664 and fans on Sunday on day 4 totaled just over 3,577. The stadium, in its current configuration, hosts between 12-17,500. I recall Pre meets with about 10-11,000 fans each year, for over three decades. At past US Champs, I recall, in Eugene, about 6-7,000 fans a day. I was expecting that kind of crowd. It just did not happen.
That is breaking my heart.
The newly renovated Hayward Field is fantastic. The fans who were there told me that they liked the seating and the design of the stadium. Oh, hot days, Eugene can be a big stove.
I am not sure why people are not coming to Eugene for the US Champs. I seem to remember that one of the ways that Eugene was sold was by belittling Sacramento, Mt.SAC, Drake, and anywhere not Eugene about how small the crowds were.
Several writers told me that locals have been frustrated about the new Hayward Field. I did not think that Phil Knight was trying to replace the old Hayward Field, I thought it was about giving us a stadium like the Letzigrund in Zurich, the 1912 Stockholm Stadium (revised), or the new Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.
What seems to have happened is that, with so many meets in Eugene, the fans of Lane County, who are mostly middle class, have to be concerned about budgets.
For some reason, all US sports but track & field actually promote ticket sales, offer block tickets, and offer deals. The first thing is, to fill the stadium. We do not do that here. The costs of the World Championships and the inability to buy tickets like one has for the Olympic Trials in the past have frustrated many of the most enduring fans.
For some reason, LOCs do not seem to get that.
Promotion? If they can not get it for free, LOCs in our sport seem to be unable to do it. There is truly the belief that if you put on a great meet, the fans will come. Well, they did not for the Nike Pre Classic this year. Why not? It was not the cold and rainy weather. Oregonians understand cold weather and dress warmly.
I think that many locals feel that they have been taken for granted. The fans from Lane County have been there for decades. The track fans for the Olympic Trials, coming to Eugene, have made it their vacation every 4 years.
We have so many wonderful stories with our sport, and so many worthy athletes, I truly believe that we have the answers right in front of us.
The Millrose Games in Madison Gardens came to an end for several reasons, all worth noting here. First, they changed from a Friday to a Saturday, which meant that people had to come back to Manhattan to see the meet. Then, they stopped promoting tickets to established groups. Third, the owners of the Garden got greedy and would not share snack sales with the meet promoters.
The meet was moved to the New Balance Armory, where, under the late Dr. Norb Sanders, the meet was established.
Putting the NCAAs, US Champs and now World Champs in Eugene may be too much for locals to handle. The dearth of accommodations and the insane charges to find a place has put the trip out of financial reality for many fans.
Probably the biggest lesson that the LOCs of USATF Champs, Pre, and World Champs should learn is lesson #1: Do not take the fans for granted.
Local fans of track & field everywhere deserve our respect. Give them time to plan for events, provide discounted tickets early, promote the sales, and get people excited about the meets!
And tell the stories. Every other sport builds fans’ enthusiasm all year round. We need to do that in track & field.
Here are some updates, for June 28, 2022:
Ray Cook wrote:
“The WCs are sold out. Of course, you can still get tickets through the $$$ resale market. The issues I have with the WC is that you need 2 tickets per day, 1 for each session and the meet is being held during the heat of the day. Tickets are $200 per session now if you can find them. WTF! Who holds 10k races at 1pm? Lastly getting tickets is the easy part. Good luck finding a hotel room. Even USATF is putting people in Salem. We’re RV camping.”
Joe Mangan wrote:
“When you write up ur review of the 4 days. I guess the 4-day attendance was around 13k. The Eugene Ems, the high a minor league Baseball team was playing at home those same days. Their attendance was 11,636.
The truth is this. Track & Field has this global love, yet, in the US, in the sports-crazy US, we market the sport like a junior high dance. The level of sophistication, from minor league baseball, to worries about COVID, to worries about gas costs, travel costs (driving 90 minutes a day each way), and not finding food kind of puts the damper on some who travel.