The new one is OK. We were on our way to attend a world athletics championship, our first. This was our third trip to Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Eugene and Hayward Field are at the epicenter of athletics in the United States.
The legendary track has been home to the University of Oregon track and field teams since 1921 and for most of those years has been filled with fans who love track and field and the athletes who compete, especially those from the surroundings and those who attend. the University of Oregon.
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But the quaint little facility was being replaced by a beautiful new state-of-the-art facility. Could this be the end of the Hayward Field Magic?
I vividly remember our visit to Eugene in 2012, when Ashton Eaton was trying to make the US Olympic team as a decathlete. The fans were just amazing cheering him on through all 10 events and he not only made the team but broke the world record (9026 held by Roman Sebrle) by scoring 9039 points.
These ties create the feeling that Hayward Field has a bit of magic to share with its favorite athletes. No one has demonstrated this more brilliantly than the legendary Steve Prefontaine, who was once the American record holder for all distances between 2,000 and 10,000 meters.
From Coos Bay, Oregon, “Pre” referred to the crowd as “my people.” He spoke constantly of the magic of Heyward Field and until his untimely death at the age of 24, Hayward Field provided him with a major advantage.
This will have non-athletics fans scratching their heads. Eugene, Oregon, home to approximately 176,654 people, built a new state-of-the-art stadium around Hayward Field.
One of the main objectives of the project was to win a bid to host the World Championships in Athletics (“WAC”) as well as many other top class athletics competitions. Cost estimates for the renovations exceed $200 million. Phil (who ran the track for the University of Oregon) and Penny Knight, along with 50 or more friends of Phil Knight, reportedly funded the project.
Hayward Field is one of those iconic locations that many believe should not be replaced or significantly altered. Before Hayward Field’s most recent renovation began, the stadium held approximately 10,500 people. The temporary seats could bring that number to around 12,500.
New world records
The new facility can accommodate 12,500 people with the option to increase that number to 25,000 with temporary seating. The stadium has been completely redesigned and can now accommodate at least 12,500 seats with a capacity and possibility of extension to 25,000 seats. I wondered as we neared our first visit to the “new” Hayward Field if we were seeing the same kind of lovefest between athletes and fans that we had seen in the past.
It didn’t take long for the question to be answered with a resounding yes. Every day, the crowd and the athletes seemed to grow closer. The competition was great, and the crowd was loud and seemed to get louder every day and the world records started to fall.
World records included: Sydney McLaughlin’s 50.68 in the 400m hurdles left everyone in awe; Tobi Amusan’s 110 meters hurdles – first breaking the existing record with a 12:12 finish in the semi-finals and then a 12:06 in the final to become Nigeria’s first gold medalist; Armand “Mondo” who pole vaulted 6.21 meters to name a few.
A special place
It is interesting to compare this WAC to our trips to the Olympics. It is rare that we attend events other than the athletics events at the Olympics. However, all those people who play and participate in other sports are fighting for housing and transportation.
The track is just one of many activities. Also, the Olympics are held once every four years, while the World Championships in Athletics are held twice in a four-year period. The level of competition is very similar. WACs are not held in the year the Olympics are held or the year after the Olympics are held.
It’s tempting to say that’s a reason to favor the WAC, but I still think there’s something special about the Olympics.
As for the new versus old Hayward Field, I think this championship answered that question – Hayward Field and Eugene will remain special places.
Performances like Ryan Crouser’s shot put, Sydney McLaughlin’s world record 400m and Armand Duplantis will teach fans to appreciate the opportunity offered by the new Hayward Field.
David Yon is addicted to running. In his spare time, he is an attorney with the Radey law firm.
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