Sacramento State will get a new $1.2 million track in the deal that returns the national track and field championships to Sacramento next year.
Nine years ago, Sacramento was a national hotbed for track and field after successfully hosting the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in 2000 and 2004. The capital city then quietly slipped off the track map, until Tuesday.
Thanks to a renewed push this year, and an agreement to build a state-of-the-art track, city officials announced they won the right to host the 2014 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The four-day meet begins June 26.
The meet, which attracts the nation's top track athletes, will be at Hornet Stadium, site of the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Trials.
"Track is back!" Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said during Tuesday's news conference in the university's fitness building overlooking the Hornet Stadium track and football field. "This is something that is overdue."
To win the bid, Sacramento officials said they are putting together a five-year financing program to pay for the new track, expected to be built next spring.
Officials with USA Track & Field said the city has the fans and weather to host a major meet but lacks one ingredient. USA track official Jim Estes said his organization told the city earlier this year: "You have to have a (new) track."
Sacramento State's track, installed to help land the 2000 Olympic Trials, is 15 years old. Newer technology is producing faster running surfaces for major meets, making it more likely that athletes will set world records.
Steve Hammond, head of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Sacramento Sports Commission, said Sacramento expects to sign a deal with an international track design company in the next two weeks for what he said will be the "best track surface in the world."
The $1.2 million cost for the track will be paid for in part by the Sacramento Tourism Marketing District, made up mainly of hotels, and by the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, financed mainly by hotel taxes.
Officials with the convention bureau said negotiations are under way with Sacramento State officials and the USA Track & Field organization to bring several other events to Sacramento over the next five years that are expected to create additional revenue to help pay for the track.
Estes said his organization always has believed Sacramento is a strong track city, based on capacity crowds during the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Trials.
"In a lot of ways, it put USA Track & Field and the Olympic Trials back in the limelight it needed to be in," Estes said.
His organization, however, has held the last two Olympic Trials which also double as the national championships in Eugene, Ore., considered the nation's top track city. According to the University of Oregon website, the Eugene track was rebuilt in 2006.
Eugene has been awarded the 2016 Olympic Trials, but Estes said Sacramento could be in the running to host the 2020 Olympic Trials "if all the right things happen" at next year's championships and beyond.
Asked by Johnson what he meant by "right things," Estes told a small crowd at Tuesday's news conference that track officials would want to see the Hornet Stadium stands filled and "great performances" on the track.
"It certainly would be a step to the Olympic Trials," Estes said, "(but) 2020 is a long way away."
Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.