INDIANAPOLIS – If the World Championships can come to a small town like Track Town, what about our town?
Track and field’s showpiece closed Sunday night in Eugene, Ore., with two world records, a full Hayward Field and a vibe that attendees and TV viewers won’t soon forget. This event had never been held in the United States before, and perhaps it will not return soon.
The United States has the best team and biggest sports market. It is a market World Athletics, the sport’s governing body, is trying to use to elevate the sport here and everywhere. Of course, to do so here means colliding with behemoths like pro football, basketball and baseball.
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The World Championships ended up at a new $270 million stadium in the nation’s 113th-ranked media market. The intimacy enhanced the experience for 1,700 athletes from 179 countries, many lodged in college dorms by the stadium. Some of that could be replicated in Indianapolis’ 25th-rated market.
If you want to think outside the box — just throw away the box — how about a World Championships inside Lucas Oil Stadium? With an open roof and sides, and a track to be laid down and then turned out, it can be imagined.
What would it cost? Maybe $2 million to $5 million? Stadiums for Atlanta 1996 and London 2012 were re-purposed after the Olympics, so it is not as if such projects have never been undertaken.
Max Siegel is CEO of USA Track & Field, whose headquarters are here. He said he is “passionate” about re-establishing a footprint.
The Pan American Games and first World Indoor Championships were both in Indianapolis in 1987, Olympic Trials in 1988, NCAA Indoor Championships from 1989-99, and USA Championships in 1983, 1985, 1997, 2006 and 2007.
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In practical terms, bringing in something means resurfacing IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium track and utilizing Fall Creek Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The pavilion, due to be finished in summer 2023, is designed to accommodate indoor track and has been chosen for the 2025 NCAA Division II meet.
A temporary track in Lucas Oil?
“I don’t necessarily think it’s that hare-brained,” Siegel said. “We want to continue to look for ways to innovate, and for ways where the national headquarters is to bring in some top-notch events as well.”
Floor space to accommodate an eight-lane, 400-meter track is about 180 meters by 90 meters, and Lucas Oil might be inadequate. Stadium director Eric Neuburger said there are 190 meters from the field suite wall in the south end zone to the north wall of the exhibit hall. However, support columns and other immovable pieces would disrupt the layout.
If plausible, Neuburger said, “I’d be down for it.”
Neuburger’s father, Dale, brought the World Swimming Championships to a 25-meter pool inside then-Conseco Fieldhouse in 2004. Lucas Oil Stadium is holding swimming’s Olympic Trials in a 50-meter pool in 2024.
No city organizes big events as well as this one does, as evidenced by the 2012 Super Bowl and a 2021 NCAA basketball tournament played almost entirely in Indianapolis. Siegel said he wants to bring in championship events regularly. It would behoove USATF to do so because awarding every major track meet to a small city in the Pacific Northwest cannot grow the sport.
“Our athletes love being in Indianapolis,” Siegel said. “If you talk to anyone from Jackie Joyner-Kersee to Carl Lewis to young athletes, the location is great. People love it. They have fond memories there.”
Siegel also suggested Indianapolis could become a training center and that USATF is looking for ways to supply athletes “a living wage.”
Maybe it is time for the world’s oldest and most universal sport to circle back to the Circle City.
“I’m pushing it big-time,” Siegel said.
USA wins record 33 medals
The United States closed the 10-day championships with 33 medals, breaking the record of 31 set by East Germany at Rome 1987. USA’s 13 golds were one less than the record.
The Americans had more medals than the next three countries combined: Ethiopia, Jamaica and Kenya with 10 each.
This sport likely retains its eleven-every-four-years niche, although Siegel said the World Championships can be a catalyst to grow track and field ahead of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
“There’s a huge awareness because of the World Championships,” he said.
World Athletics awarded a team trophy for the first time, and the United States took that with a record 328 points (scoring through eight places) — also more than the next three countries combined.
Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, called performances in Eugene “off the graph.”
>> The United States swept both the men’s 100 and 200 meters for the first time since the 1904 St. Louis Olympics.
>> Sydney McLaughlin lowered the world record in the women’s 400 hurdles for the fourth time in 13 months, down to 50.68, in one of the greatest feats in the sport’s long history. Then she ran 400 meters in 47.91 on the anchor leg of Sunday night’s relay.
>> World records were set on day 10 by pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis of Sweden at 20 feet, 4 ½ inches (6.21m) and by Tobi Amusan of Nigeria in the 100-meter hurdles. Amusan lowered it to 12.12 in a semifinal before a wind-aided 12.06 in the final.
>> Besides Olympic gold medalists like McLaughlin, Athing Mu (800 meters) and Ryan Crouser (shot put) adding world titles to their resumes, Team USA had “off-the-graph” surprises: silvers by Marvin Bracy (100) and Kara Winger (javelin), and bronzes by Zach Ziemek (decathlon), Trevor Bassitt (400 hurdles), Josh Awotunde (shot put) and Tori Franklin (triple jump).
>> Records were set for most countries winning gold medals (29, up from 26 in 2017) and most countries with top-eight finishes (81, up from 76 in 2019). Liberia, Niger, Pakistan, Samoa, Philippines and Guatemala made a final for the first time.
Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.