The future of US indoor track?

Right now I’m in Albuquerque, covering the USATF Indoor Championships.

It’s kind of an odd situation for me. I’m not really a journalist so much as a self-appointed loudmouth with a blog. Today was my first-ever press conference (at least for track). I wouldn’t even have thought to go, but it was my first opportunity to pick up press credentials. So I figured, what the heck. Let’s see what a press conference looks like.

The first three people up to speak were Mike McNees, interim CEO of USA Track and Field; Richard Berry, mayor of Albuquerque; and Dale Lockett, President/CEO of the Albuquerque Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. They were happy to make an announcement that the next two USATF Indoor Championships, in 2013 and 2014, would return to Albuquerque.

After the usual political pleasantries, saying how wonderful a job the city and the officials and everyone else has done in hosting the last two championships, blah blah blah, one of the reporters in attendance asked McNees about the bid process.

Was there a bidding process? Yes, replied McNees, we solicited bids and weighed the merits of each.

What other cities bid? McNees said he couldn’t recall.

That seems strange.

In fact, my sources tell me there was only one other bid, and it was rejected for a very good reason. But its future bids will almost certainly be accepted.

That bid was from the Spire Institute, in the Cleveland exurb of Geneva. Spire’s massive indoor facility has a 300 meter track, and USATF doesn’t do championships on an oversized track (and neither does any other national or international body save the NAIA, which is happy to find any host at all).

There is no problem Spire can’t fix, because money is literally no object. Spire is willing to buy, build and lay a 200 meter board track over its existing 300 meter track and turf infield. Since they haven’t yet done this or hosted a competition on the track, USATF really couldn’t go out on a limb and award them a championship.

But I’ve also been told that this will happen, that for special occasions, Spire will put a 200 meter track over its 300 meter track (which would make additional backstretch seating possible, significantly raising the capacity beyond its current 5,000 seats). In all likelihood, Spire will then bid on USATF Championships and NCAA Championships.

And they may also go for the big one, the IAAF World Indoor Championships. Having seen the facility and the infrastructure with my own eyes, I think Spire has what it takes to win such a bid.

Will the USA ever host a World Outdoor Championships? I think it’s unlikely. There are simply too many challenges to overcome. But we are hosting the World Junior Championships in 2014, we’ve hosted the World Cross Country Championships, and the New York Road Runners Club recently put forth a serious but ultimately unsuccessful bid for the World Half Marathon Championships.

World Indoors is gettable and would make good enough headlines for track and field. And if that works…well, who knows what could happen next.

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4 Responses to The future of US indoor track?

  1. Zach yeo says:

    First off, I really enjoy your takes about T&F and reading your weekend rankings, athletes of the week, ect.

    Now Talking about Spire, I’m actually an athlete in the NAIA, track & field of course, which our indoor championships are being held there next Thursday, Friday , & Saturday. This will actually be my fourth trip to the venue, which is an awesome set up, not just for track & field, but other sporting events as well.

    But as you say they are bidding for US champs, ect. I can’t agree that USATF would ever approve. Even if they put a 200 meter track over their current 300, the location is my concern. Geneva is 40-45 minutes outside of Cleveland, & the closest hotel/resort is 20-25 minutes away from the venue (where my team stays).
    As a runner, a 20 minute drive to a venue isn’t what I want. And I feel that most athlete feel that way as well. To drive back & forth for shake-outs, practice, running rounds isn’t good for athletes. Even looking at places to eat, things to do, the city couldn’t hold a major championship.

    What are your thought about this?

  2. Zach says:

    First off, I really enjoy your takes about T&F and reading your weekend rankings, athletes of the week, ect.

    Now Talking about Spire, I’m actually an athlete in the NAIA, track & field of course, which our indoor championships are being held there next Thursday, Friday , & Saturday. This will actually be my fourth trip to the venue, which is an awesome set up, not just for track & field, but other sporting events as well.

    But as you say they are bidding for US champs, ect. I can’t agree that USATF would ever approve. Even if they put a 200 meter track over their current 300, the location is my concern. Geneva is 40-45 minutes outside of Cleveland, & the closest hotel/resort is 20-25 minutes away from the venue (where my team stays).
    As a runner, a 20 minute drive to a venue isn’t what I want. And I feel that most athlete feel that way as well. To drive back & forth for shake-outs, practice, running rounds isn’t good for athletes. Even looking at places to eat, things to do, the city couldn’t hold a major championship.

    What are your thought about this?

    Zach Yeo.

  3. admin says:

    You make a good point, and right that’s a major problem. But one of the reasons the Spire Academy was built in Geneva was because the multi-millionaire behind it wanted to build up the economy in his home town. Within three or four years, Geneva is likely to have a lot more hotel space.

    In terms of warm-up areas, the massive Courts and Fields building would likely be set aside for that at a major championship. It has nearly as much floor space as the indoor track building does.

  4. John says:

    I think there are plans for hotels there in the near future. There are also plans for dorms or a “athlete village.” I will be there next weekend. I hope that Spire can bring more world class track to NE Ohio. The local athletes are already benefiting as there had to be around 1500-2000 athletes and spectators there on Friday night. Spire had 1800 athletes sign up for the event and had to cut down the numbers. I let Spire know they need to run more events if the demand is so high. This is a great problem for us to have!