Event Management: USA Track & Field Ntl. Champs

≡ The Backdrop:

The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) built The Home Depot Center in 2003 as a state-of-the-art competition and training center for soccer, tennis, cycling and track & field. It opened to a full house at The Home Depot Track & Field Invitational on June 1, 2003, featuring Olympic stars such as Maurice Greene, Stacy Dragila, Anna Guevara, and a high-school sensation named Allyson Felix (press/radio/TV information here).

AEG rapidly began looking for meets to host at the site, continuing with The Home Depot Invitational in 2004, headed by Greene and defending Olympic women’s 100 m champion Marion Jones. The meet was shown live on NBC television and drew an even larger crowd of 11,266 (press/radio/TV information here).

Bids, prepared by Perelman, Pioneer & Co., were submitted for the 2005 USA Track & Field National Outdoor Championships and the 2006 IAAF World Cup, a team competition which had never been held in the U.S. before. Both were successful and Perelman, Pioneer was hired as meet director for the 2005 USA Nationals, to be held June 23-26.

≡ The Work:

The USA Track & Field National Outdoor Championships is a very large event. Although confined to a single sport, it comprises 83 events in all for both men and women, senior (any age) and junior (under 20) athletes.

Our role was to organize the event in a comprehensive way that met the needs of all of the constituent groups:

  • Athletes (adults and minors, whose parents often accompany them);
  • Coaches (who interests are not always the same as athletes);
  • Officials (selected from across the nation);
  • Spectators (including those coming from out of the area);
  • Sponsors, both local and USA Track & Field national sponsors;
  • News media, including television (meet was televised by ESPN).

The key element is satisfying the needs of these groups was to group them together in a way which serviced them best and minimized confusion. For athletes, coaches and officials (instruction packet here), this was achieved by creating a combined check-in and warm-up facility in the adjacent ADT Velodrome at the south end of The Home Depot Center. Parking in an adjacent lot, away from spectators, was available for those who drove to the meet, and a convenient boarding and drop-off location was available for the shuttle-bus system that serviced the designated hotels for all three groups (in nearby Carson and in Long Beach).

The Velodrome worked perfectly as a combined information center, storage depot (equipment such as vaulting poles were stored overnight) and warm-up facility. Combined with an auxiliary soccer field for warm-ups, athletes and coaches were able to prepare quickly and quietly for the competitions.

This left spectators, sponsors and news media free to use the larger lots off Avalon Boulevard, where the public is used to accessing the facility for all other major events. This worked very well for all groups concerned.

A total of 609 staff and volunteers (most of which were recruited by Perelman, Pioneer) participated in operating the meet, in 13 critical areas:

Off-site operations:

  • Airport Operations
  • Host Hotels

On-site operations:

  • Doping Control
  • Medical & Athletic Training
  • Officials Coordination Warm-up Area
  • Field-event Operations
  • Running-event Operations
  • Post-Race Coordination
  • Press Operations
  • Public Address
  • Results & Program Production
  • USATF Support

≡ The Outcome:

The athlete turnout was substantial: 1,472 in all, with 885 senior-division athletes and 587 juniors. The meet ran on-time and all of the constituent groups were well accommodated during the event. The performances were remarkable: seven world-leading senior marks and two new American Records were set during the meet.

USA Track & Field chief executive Craig Masback wrote to The Home Depot Center Managing Director Bill Peterson that “[T]he results of the Championships establish it as one of the best ever. Please express my appreciation to Dan Perini, Rich Perelman and Bruce Tenen for their work … It made a true difference for our athletes and sport.”

There was one crisis moment during the meet. During the pre-meet practice day on June 22, a local track & field official who had been hired to act as a practice starter wandered off and hit and killed by a shot put. Meet Director Rich Perelman was deposed in a post-meet lawsuit and due in part to the clear documentation and instructions which had been prepared for all officials, summary judgment against the plaintiffs was rendered by the court and the matter dismissed.