Sacramento State to get new $1.2 million track, 2014 national champion meet

Nine years ago, Sacramento was the national epicenter for the sport of track and field, having successfully hosted sold-out Olympic 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 $1.2 million, state-of-the-art running track, city officials announced they have won the right to host next year’s USA National Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

The championship meet, attracting the nation’s top male and female track athletes, will take place June 26 to 29 at Sacramento State University’s Hornet Stadium, site of the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Trials.

“Track is back!” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Tuesday at a new 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 a new track. The track is expected to be build sometime 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.”

The current Sacramento State track, installed to help Sacramento land the 2000 Olympic Trials, is 15 years old. Newer technologies are producing faster running surfaces for major track 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 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, which is financed mainly by hotel taxes. Officials with the convention bureau said negotiations are underway with Sacramento State officials and with the USA Track & Field organization to bring several other track events to Sacramento over the next five years. Those events are expected to create additional revenues to help pay for the new track.

USA Track & Field representative Estes said his organization has always believed Sacramento is a strong track city, based on sold-out crowds during the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Trials at Hornet Stadium.

“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 track trials 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 already has been granted 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 the upcoming 2014 national championships and beyond.

Asked by Mayor Johnson what he meant by “right things,” Estes told a small press conference crowd at Sacramento State that track officials would want to see the Hornet Stadium stands filled, and would want to see some “great performances” on the track.

“It certainly would be a step to the Olympic Trials,” he said. But, he added, “2020 is a long way away.”

Tickets for the June 2014 track championships are expected to go on sale Dec. 10 at the Sacramento State box office. The Sacramento Sports Commission website, www.sacsports.com, also will have links to online ticket sales sites.