Saving the Cal Baseball Team Saves the Last U.S. Hope for the World T&F Championships

LOS ANGELES, Jun. 20, 2011 – The amazing return of the University of California to the College World Series in 2011 is an appropriate celebration of the miracle by which the Golden Bears baseball team marks its survival.

At the same time, it preserves the last venue to can really hope to host the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in the United States.

Faced with a continuing deficit in its athletic budget, Cal announced last September 28 that five sports would be dropped, including baseball, rugby, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse. Three – rugby, lacrosse and women’s gymnastics – were reinstated in February 2011, leaving supporters of baseball and men’s gymnastics to raise enough funds to continue the programs. Happily, both did, with the “save baseball” campaign raising $9.7 million to assure its continuation.

How does this impact track & field?

Essentially every major U.S. football stadium that had a track inside has eliminated it, or is in the process of doing so: the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Husky Stadium in Seattle, Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Dyche Stadium outside Chicago, Memorial Stadium in Austin, and so on. What was the Olympic stadium in Atlanta for the 1996 Games is now Turner Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves.

Stanford’s situation was typical. A candidate for the 1997, 1999 and 2001 World Championships in historic, 86,000-seat Stanford Stadium, the university built a small track facility adjacent to it, then remodeled the old stadium into a more intimate 49,000-seat facility strictly for football. Why keep the track when just 1-2 meets a year are held there?

When ex-USA Track & Field chief executive Doug Logan projected that the U.S. would host a World Championships by 2015, what he didn’t tell us was that he was solely relying on a Chicago victory in the race for the 2016 Olympic Games. No Chicago Olympics meant no World Championships, either.

What are the remaining possibilities? Having written the three Stanford bids, I’m well familiar with the requirements. If the IAAF was interested and willing to hold the meet in the U.S., is there a facility which could do it?

In my view, only Cal, as shown in the Google Earth photograph:


Cal’s Edwards Stadium – with its bright yellow track – starts with a capacity of 22,000 with excellent sight lines of all eight lanes. All of the long throws can be held inside the stadium. And – this is key – there are major expansion possibilities to the east and north:

• Evans Diamond, home of the reprieved baseball team, sits right behind Edwards Stadium, with dimensions of 320 feet down the foul lines and 395 to dead center. That space of nearly four acres could easily host 16-20,000 additional bleacher seats, bringing the capacity to more than 40,000.

• Hellman Tennis Stadium to the north includes six large, hard-court playing surfaces, on which could be placed as many as 4,000 more seats, bringing the “World Championships” capacity to around 44,000 or so, barely sufficient – but probably enough – for the IAAF.

Just as important are the support facilities that make Cal the only reasonable choice for a U.S. host:

Athlete support: Cal is building a first-quality athlete support, sports medicine and weight-training facility in the Student-Athlete High Performance Center, across the campus, adjacent to the Memorial Stadium football facility and close to the campus housing halls. Housing could be on-campus (there’s room for 6,000 now, with dining halls that have won several awards for culinary excellence), in hotels in the East Bay area, or even in San Francisco if desired.

IAAF support: Cal’s Recreational Sports Facility, just behind Edwards, is a 100,000-square foot student recreational facility with three gyms, seven basketball courts, six squash courts, seven handball courts and much more to handle all of the administrative needs of the Championships, even some VIP parking.

Media support: Cal’s basketball hall, Haas Pavilion, overlooks Evans Diamond and is large enough to handle the media needs on its floor, concourses and meeting and banquet rooms.

Warm-up: To host a World Championships, a training track is required. Looking at the satellite photograph of the area, you’ll see a nearby field with a synthetic track, at Berkeley High School, just a couple of blocks from Edwards Stadium. This set-up is similar to that used for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, when athletes warmed up at USC, then shuttled over to the Memorial Coliseum for competition. It worked then, and it can work here.

And for spectators, while parking is tight, there is a BART stop a block-and-a-half from Edwards Stadium.

Doing this wouldn’t be cheap (an estimated $1 million for the temporary seating modifications), but should be manageable within the scope of a World Championships program. Naysayers will dismiss this solution, but it is – in my view – the only one actually available in the U.S. today.

I sent a letter noting this to Logan back in May of 2010, but of course, I never heard back. Happily, Cal’s baseball backers have preserved this option, which will need significant sponsorship, television and local and regional governmental support to become reality.

But even as a UCLA grad, it’s made me a Cal backer in this year’s College World Series. Go Bears!

(You can stay current with Rich’s technology, sports and Olympic commentaries by following him at www.twitter.com/RichPerelman.)

5 Comments

  1. Cal could host the NCAA championships, but I doubt they would ever get the world championships. The IAAF wants at least 50,000 seating and Edwards Stadium needs way too much renovation. Who’s going to pay for it? If you have been to Edwards Stadium, you know parking is a major problem, much less getting all those people to and from their seating. I believe the two best candidates (L.A. Coliseum and Stanford Stadium) are gone because they have no tracks. What the U.S. needs is a brand new stadium just for track and field in or near a major U.S. city with fairly good weather (like Los Angeles or San Diego). That’s what I want for Christmas.

  2. Reinstall a track at the LA Coliseum, place that pretty much sits empty all year long, minus USC Football and a couple of soccer matches. IAAF would be much more receptive to an 80,000 seat stadium and the sightlines are great at the Coliseum, if distant for many.

  3. It would be great to have an IAAF World Championships here in the US but I’m not sure this facilily presently meets the specifications for any World Championships (Youth, Junior, Open).
    Why?
    Looking at a close up of the google image, I only see one long jump/triple jump runway. …one runway with a pit at each end!. You definitely need two runways. Plus I only see one shot circle as well. But this is easier to fix.
    Seating:
    Would be ideal of the Youth or Juniors but not the Open.
    However, I do applaud anyone who is trying to bring a Champiosnhips here to the US.

  4. There are only 2 things that the IAAF cares about: Money in their pockets, and a luxurious trip for the IAAF execs, 5 star hotels, limousines on call 24 hours and First class airfare. Athletes be damned. They don’t care about the name of the host country, only about the amount of money provided in the pockets of the IAAF executive staff.

  5. I wish that football and track and field, at least on college campuses, had recognized that a partnership between them would have served them well. This may have ensured more college football stadiums had tracks. Football and track have many of the same needs – seating, space, press box, the ability to charge admission, locker rooms and showers, etc. However, football and track coaches love to have their own facilities, and it has cost track dearly. Stadiums are so expensive to build and maintain, and they either need to make their money during a sports season or figure out a multi-use way to earn the dollars.

    I like the idea someone suggested of having a national track and field stadium, but it will have to be a multi-use stadium. Meanwhile, USA Track and Field, or whoever is in charge, needs to keep a watchful eye on stadiums and make sure track and field doesn’t get left out of new stadiums or the renovation of old stadiums. Otherwise, the US will never host a world track championships.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Stadium 2011 Blog
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  3. Another solution to the “Where?” problem | The Track & Field Superfan Blog
  4. Oregon » Blog Archive » Oregon track & field rundown: Foot problems force Lisa Koll to withdraw from the USA Championships; Andrew Wheating …

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