Sacramento played host to its first major track meet since NCAA’s in 2007 and first USATF competition since the 2004 Olympic Trials, so much speculation went into how California’s capital city would fare hosting the 2014 U.S. Track and Field Championships.
Below’s a breakdown of some of the elements that went well and not so well for the meet.
Meet operations: Everything was executed solidly. The races started on time, the microphones worked, etc.
A particular hit was the food truck section behind the grandstands on the northwest corner of the stadium. They provided spectators the choice between gyros, BBQ, shaved ice and a multitude of other options beyond your traditional stadium hamburger/hot dog experience.
Attendance: Meet attendance was strong, totaling 32,783 for the four days of competition at Hornet Stadium. That’s the highest for a non-Eugene U.S. outdoor meet (excluding Olympic Trials) since Sacramento hosted the meet in 1995.
**Not included is the estimated 5,550 non-ticketed spectators at the Wednesday shot put competition at the State Capitol.
Meet organizers easily surpassed the 22,500 tickets they needed to sell in order to win the rights to host the 2017 U.S. outdoor meet.
Some message board posters lamented the image of half-empty grandstands, which surely doesn’t look good, but also doesn’t tell the whole story. Hornet Stadium has a capacity of 21,195, which can make even a crowd over 10,000 look small. By comparison, the main grandstands of Hayward Field seat just 10,500.
Party venues: There were no shortage of locales for post-meet events near the track. Hoka One One had well-attended events at Fahrenheit 250 BBQ on Friday and Saturday evenings, while Clark’s Corner was the place to be for Oiselle’s always lively shindig on Saturday night.
One minor complaint would be the underutilization of Sacramento’s downtown core. Headquartering the meet at a downtown hotel rather than out in the suburbs of Arden would have given visitors access to the cornucopia of high quality restaurants and bars just blocks away from the State Capitol building.
Fan participation/knowledge: When it came to fan participation and knowledge, Sacramento is certainly no Eugene, despite what John Mansoor will tell you. The jumpers requesting fan clapping received mediocre participation at best. The stands on Thursday and Friday evenings saw a mass exodus when sprint events concluded and only the distance races remained. You certainly wouldn’t see that in Eugene.
It’s understandable why the 5000 and 10,000 meter finals were scheduled at the end of the evenings to avoid Sacramento’s heat. An alternative could be putting the sprint events at the very end of the schedule, but making sprint fans sit through two 10k races is likely classified as torture under the Geneva Convention.
It’s disappointing that fans aren’t sticking around to see all the athletes compete, but at the end of the day, they pay for a ticket and have the right to do as they please.
Weather: It was HOT on Sunday. No one but Mother Nature to blame for that, but weather certainly plays a part in judging fan-friendliness. No one feels too comfortable sitting in nearly 100 degree conditions — and that will surely be a factor in deciding whether Sacramento hosts future championship competitions.