Last week new particulars emerged concerning the renovation of Hayward Field, the University of Oregon’s storied monitor and area stadium, which is slated to host the 2021 IAAF World Championships. While initial plans left a lot of the unique stadium intact—together with its beloved east grandstand—that now not appears to be the case. Renderings in the Oregonian present photographs of a smooth, ultramodern stadium outfitted with a clear wraparound roof and, bafflingly, an adjoining nine-story tower. The venture is scheduled to start development in July after a number of postponements and reportedly will price greater than $200 million. Phil Knight, the Oregon alumnus and Nike cofounder, is a principal benefactor.
“My business life was born on Hayward Field, so this is a deeply personal project for me,” Knight mentioned in a University of Oregon press release. He isn’t the one one who feels that means.
As Austin Meeks, a sports activities columnist for Eugene’s Register-Guard, has extensively reported, some longtime Hayward devoted are cautious that, with its futuristic splendor, the brand new design lacks the intimacy of its predecessor. To adjust to IAAF laws, Hayward will want to spice up seating capability from 10,000 to 30,000 when it hosts the World Championships. Although the everlasting capability shall be stored at 12,900, that quantity is itself a large enhance, prompting fears of empty seats and a dampening of the venue’s well-known aura, often known as the “Hayward magic.”
“When the magic is there, it’s incredible,” Jay Bowerman, son of late Oregon monitor coach and Nike cofounder Bill Bowerman, mentioned in a latest Register-Guard article. “You leave a facility half-empty, and no matter how excited the remaining fans are, it just doesn’t happen anymore.”
There’s additionally the query of whether or not that magic will be revived with out the east grandstand. Built in 1925, these picket bleachers have lengthy held a outstanding place in Hayward—and by extension Nike—lore. Situated alongside the again straightaway of the monitor, they’ve been a 2nd residence to most of the nation’s most passionate monitor followers for generations. When I attended a press journey to the 2015 Pre Classic monitor meet (disclosure: the journey was paid for by Nike), Vin Lananna, the University of Oregon’s affiliate athletic director and a key determine in bringing the World Championships to Eugene, spoke concerning the east grandstand with reverence.
“Bill Bowerman didn’t touch these stands because he loved these stands,” Lananna mentioned. “Once we do our renovations for 2021, these stands will remain wood and they will look exactly the same.”
At least that was the road in 2015, when Nike design legend Tinker Hatfield was nonetheless answerable for the blueprints for the brand new stadium. At some level through the previous 3 years, these plans have been quietly scrapped and the reins have been handed over to the structure agency SRG Partnership. Although the explanation for the change stays unclear, the University of Oregon has asserted that the brand new design is per the college’s legacy of innovation. In a deft PR transfer final week, the college released a short video introducing the reimagined Hayward Field that included classic footage of Bowerman speaking a couple of redesign of the previous west grandstand, which was torn down and rebuilt within the early seventies. The message was clear: even Hayward’s patron saint wasn’t afraid to make adjustments.
The main impetus for the brand new stadium is the 2021 IAAF World Championships, itself a beleaguered difficulty. For 1 factor, there’s an ongoing FBI investigation into how Eugene was chosen to host. The metropolis was given the nod within the absence of any formal bidding course of. Lamine Diack, who was president of the IAAF when Eugene was awarded the championships, was arrested a few months later on expenses that he’d accepted bribes to cowl up Russian doping violations.
Some locals have qualms about whether or not internet hosting a significant worldwide occasion just like the World Championships is basically in Eugene’s curiosity. (The previous 3 came about in London, Beijing, and Moscow.) “Eugene is probably the smallest city, by a good measure, that has ever hosted the World Championships,” mentioned Bob Penny, a carpenter who ran monitor at South Eugene High School, attended structure college on the University of Oregon within the 1970s, and has been a vocal critic of the Hayward Field development plans.
“Eugene really didn’t go through a bid process where there was an ask to the town like, ‘Do you want to do this?’” Penny added. “The IAAF and the ‘University of Nike’ like to do things their own way.”
Then once more, Eugene has hosted a number of monitor and area Olympic Trials and NCAA Championships prior to now. The metropolis can also be residence to TrackTown USA, an occasions firm, helmed by Lananna, that lobbied exhausting for Hayward Field to host the World Championships. (Ironically, TrackTown USA makes use of the soon-to-be-razed east grandstand in its logo.)
I requested Scott Krause, a Eugene native who launched a petition to save the Hayward landmark by means of Change.org, how he felt concerning the argument that the brand new design was merely a part of the pure evolution of a venue that has advanced over time. “When people talk about how you can’t keep things forever, well, they’ve done a pretty good job of keeping the Sistine Chapel, the Eiffel Tower, and the Empire State Building,” Krause mentioned, including that he was in favor of mixing historic parts of Hayward with new options fairly than ranging from scratch.
Not everybody who has a historical past with Hayward Field is so sentimental. In an e-mail, Lauren Fleshman, a collegiate all-American who ran professionally for the Eugene-based Oregon Track Club till 2012, instructed that there may also be a type of Hayward hegemony.
“Hayward Field is a special place, but let’s not get too precious about a stadium,” Fleshman mentioned. “We need to ask ourselves, which history exactly are we clinging so tightly to? If we’re being honest, it’s primarily a history of white distance-runner dudes, a single story of track and field anchored by [Steve] Prefontaine and Bowerman—characters who can do no wrong after death, who only get larger with time and marketing dollars. Let’s make it a place where new stories can be written. Where new heroes can be seen against a new backdrop.”
Whether the looming specter of Prefontaine or Bowerman is a boon or a burden for previous Hayward Field is open to debate. Unsurprisingly, Krause, when requested concerning the pervasiveness of the Pre legend, mentioned that he feels it has an inspirational fairly than oppressive impact on younger runners. Nevertheless, even Krause admits that future legends would most likely have a neater time establishing themselves in a venue that didn’t bear the nickname “the house that Pre built.”
Those making an attempt to salvage elements of that home maintain out hope. On Monday, Eugene’s metropolis council voted to think about an software to designate the east grandstand a metropolis landmark. “The east grandstand was designed by Ellis Lawrence, who is basically Oregon’s most famous architect,” Penny, who attended the vote, informed me. “When it comes to all the characteristics you evaluate to determine whether a building is historic—significance of events, significance of people, significance of architecture—the east grandstand is eminently qualified.” Still, landmark standing won’t be sufficient to reserve it. There are bureaucratic loopholes that the college can use to take away the construction. There has even been dialogue about transferring it to a brand new location, exterior the stadium.
Regardless of how issues prove, those that wish to pay their respects to the previous Hayward magic might want to transfer quick. This yr’s Pre Classic takes place May 25–26. Construction is scheduled to start a number of weeks later.