Sacramento loses bid to host 2020 Olympic Trials for track and field

Aleec Harris, center, wins the 100 meter hurdles in 13.24 on day four of the 2017 USA Track and Field Championships at Sacramento State on Sunday, June 25, 2017 in Sacramento, Calif.
Aleec Harris, center, wins the 100 meter hurdles in 13.24 on day four of the 2017 USA Track and Field Championships at Sacramento State on Sunday, June 25, 2017 in Sacramento, Calif. rpench@sacbee.com

Three days after hosting this year’s national track and field championships, Sacramento learned Wednesday that it lost out on the sport’s most prized U.S. event – the Olympic Trials in 2020.

USA Track & Field announced this morning that it has awarded the 10-day Olympic Trials to the Los Angeles area – specifically, Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. USATF bypassed bids from Sacramento and Eugene, cities well-versed in hosting the trials over the decades. That includes Hornet Stadium, which set attendance records in 2000 and 2004.

The allure of the Los Angeles draw was threefold: the nation’s second largest media market, the historical pedigree of track and field in that region, and a $62 million upgrade to Mt. San Antonio College’s Hilmer Lodge Stadium that will allow the venue to expand seating to more than 21,000.

“The board was presented with three excellent options for the 2020 Olympic Trials,” board chairman Steve Miller said in a release. “The board, and especially our active athletes, were clear in their desire to take the Olympic Trials back to Los Angeles. Mt. SAC has long been one of the top meets in the country, from an athlete performance perspective as well as from an organizational perspective. With the stadium upgrades currently planned, we are confident Mt. SAC will provide an extraordinary experience for athletes, fans, officials and volunteers.”

Sacramento Sports Commission Director Mike Sophia told The Bee on Wednesday afternoon, “In most businesses, you don’t win them all, including ours.”

He added, “I’m disappointed. I’m proud of what we did, but I’m truly disappointed. We wanted to bring this back to Sacramento. We knew going in we had good competition (for the 2020 bid), and at the end of the day, the No. 2 media market and the $62 million won the day.

“I know USA Track & Field was talking about needing new markets and new places to go, and those are some of the things we couldn’t overcome.”

Sophia said the Sports Commission will continue to bring elite sporting events to the region. It landed two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Golden 1 in March, and it was such a success that the NCAA picked Golden 1 as one of its sites for the 2020 event best known as March Madness.

The NCAA will also hold a Division I men’s and women’s cross country regional at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in 2018 and 2021. Also, Haggin Oaks will be the site of the Division II men’s and women’s cross country championships in 2019.

“We look forward to the next things,” Sophia said. “This (Walnut announcement) isn’t going to hurt our momentum at all.”

Twenty world records have been set at Hilmer Lodge at Mt. SAC, the site for the 2020 trials. What’s more, Walnut’s “favorable weather and the area’s robust options for transportation and lodging” were also cited by the board, which voted 11-2 in favor of Mt. SAC, according to the release.

Mt. SAC has been a hotbed for track and field at all levels, including youth, high school and college, and it has hosted the famed Mt. SAC Relays since 1959.

More Mt. SAC momentum: Los Angeles, which also hosted last year’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, is one of two bid cities for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Drew Wartenburg, coach of the Sacramento-based NorCal Distance Project, said that if holding the next track and field trials in the Los Angeles area strengthens the bid and “makes sense within the Olympic picture overall, then that’s great.”

“The bottom line is every track is going to be 400 meters around, and you trust the local organizing committee is going to do their due diligence and put on a good meet,” Wartenburg said. “I think a lot of us are excited to see what their facility looks like.”

Gene Sykes, CEO of the LA 2024 committee, said the group was “thrilled” to land the 2020 trials.

“Mt. San Antonio College’s renovated Hilmer Lodge Stadium will be one of the world’s finest track and field venues and the perfect location to host the nation’s top track and field event in 2020,” Sykes said in a statement. “We also hope the Trials will be a preview of more Olympic-quality track and field competition returning in Los Angeles in 2024.”

Jacob Sweet contributed to this report.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

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