Vin Lananna explains how, why Oregon Convention Center will play host to this major track and field event

by: COURTESY OF SKYLAB ARCHITECTURE - A vision of the Oregon Convention Center set-up for the 2016 World Indoor track and field championships.For three days in March 2016, Portland will be the focal point of the track and field universe.

Portland? Not Eugene?

For sure, the Track Capital of the U.S., offered the biggest assist to the City of Roses landing the 2016 World Indoor Championships.

Now it will be up to the sports fans and business entities of Portland, as well as the rest of the region, to show it deserves a major international track and field event in an Olympic year.

"It's one thing to say it's a great idea conceptually," says Vin Lananna, the former University of Oregon coach now president of Eugene's TrackTown USA, which will serve as the local organizing committee for the '16 World Indoors. "It's another to write a check.

"It will be important we have a buy-in -- that we sell out the Oregon Convention Center -- and that the private sector supports this. If we really want to demonstrate that this region embraces the sport of track and field, and essentially owns it (in the U.S.) -- and I have full confidence that we will -- we need to get behind this."

The '16 World Indoors will be staged on a pre-constructed wood 200-meter track inside the exhibit halls of the convention enter, with bleachers seating a capacity crowd of between 6,400 and 8,400. Lananna guesses 700 athletes from the 212 member countries, another 700-800 coaches and track and field officials and a strong contingent of international media will invade Portland for the week.

"It's going to be a fabulous event," he promises.

Portland beat out Birmingham, England, for the right to become the first U.S. city to host the World Indoors since Indianapolis in 1987. Lananna was the point person in the delegation that presented the bid to the International Association of Athletics Federations in Monaco last month.

Birmingham had the advantage of having played host to a successful World Indoors in 2003. (The event, now staged on even years every two years, will be held at Sopot, Poland, next March.) Portland's hole card was the global reputation of Eugene's Hayward Field, home of the annually regaled Prefontaine Classic.

It didn't hurt that the Nike World Headquarters and the Adidas North American Headquarters are located in our city. Adidas is the IAAF sponsor; Nike is the USA Track & Field Federation sponsor.

Plus, "the IAAF has long had an interest in hitting the U.S. market," Lananna says.

Lananna has experience at this kind of thing. Eugene played host to the 2008 and '12 U.S. Olympic Trials and will do it again in '16. Eugene will stage the 2014 World Junior Championships next July. Lananna has an ulterior motive. He hopes the World Juniors and World Indoors will lead to the third and most prestigious leg of the triumvirate: A bid for Eugene to have the 2019 World Outdoor Championships, an event that has never been held in the U.S. "No question, that's the big prize for us," he says.

(The World Outdoor Championships will be held at Beijing in 2015 and at London in 2017.)

The TrackTown USA exec says he received excellent cooperation from local and state governmental agencies, in particular Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, who sent chief of staff Gail Shibley to Monaco for the presentation. Also members of the Portland presenting committee: world 1,500 and mile record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj, a Moroccan who lived here for three years, and decathlon Olympic champion and world record-holder Ashton Eaton of Eugene.

Lananna said the U.S. Olympic Committee came strong with support.

"If the U.S. wants to make a successful run at the Olympic Games in 2024, we have to host a major IAAF championship," he says. "It will be difficult for the U.S to win an Olympic bid without embracing track and field as a major sport."

Eugene has no site available to hold such a major indoor event. Lananna, with an eye on including the state and region, anyway, looked to Portland. The Moda Center, with the Trail Blazers as principal tenant, was out. "It would take five to six weeks to set things up and take it all down," Lananna says.

Memorial Coliseum was a possibility, but there were infrastructure problems and not enough space to accommodate a 200-meter track with adequate sight lines.

by: COURTESY OF UO ATHLETICS  - Vin Lananna and another former University of Oregon track and field coach, Bill Dellinger, share a laugh at the annual Bill Dellinger Invitational cross-country meet in Springfield.
Lananna had looked at the Convention Center five years ago as a potential site for the NCAA Indoor Championships. "We never went anywhere with it," he says, "but it was always in the back of my mind."

Playing host to the World Indoors in an Olympic year is an added bonus for Portland. More of the big-time athletes, especially those in the U.S., will be inclined to participate in preparation for the '16 Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro that August.

"This is going to help our U.S. athletes win more medals at Rio," Lananna predicts. "It's going to allow them to compete at an international level without having to travel abroad."

The last time the World Indoors were held in the U.S. -- Indianapolis in 1987 -- they were staged at the 60,000-seat Hoosier Dome. Lananna was there.

"It was well-attended, but it was so big, and the seating too far from the action," he says. In Portland, "we'll have the crowd on top of the track. That's the whole beauty of it. You can not only see it, you can feel it and hear it and smell it."

Lananna won't be sure of capacity at the convention center for a while, but he envisions about 6,400, with hospitality and sponsorship suites on the curves. He says the maximum would be about 8,400. "Every seat will be fantastic," he says.

The TrackTown exec says ticket pricing will be "in line with any other professional sport" in the U.S., though it hasn't been set.

Athletes must meet IAAF qualifying standards in the 28 events, 14 each in men's and women's competition: 60 and 60 hurdles, 200, 800, 1,500 or mile, 3,000, 1,600 relay, men's heptathlon, women's pentathlon, shot put, long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault. Each country can have a maximum two entrants per event. Friday will be the preliminary events, with finals on Saturday and Sunday.

Athletes, coaches and officials will stay at six designated hotels in the Portland area. There will also be two media hotels.

Lananna says it will take about five days to assemble and install the track and the bleachers.

The budget for the World Indoors, Lananna says, is hard to estimate.

"It's going to be somewhere between $6 million and $10 million," he says.

Can it be a money-maker?

"We sure hope it can," Lananna says. TrackTown USA hopes to at least cover costs. "Any surplus goes to the next event we stage," he says.

Lananna will lead the fundraising drive moving forward. He has two-plus years to sell the meet to corporate sponsors and fans who want to be part of what qualifies as one of the biggest sports events in our state's history.

Portland hasn't had indoor track since the old Oregon Indoor died sometime in the 1980s. The World Indoors will be exponentially greater -- one of the biggest sporting endeavors in our state's history.

That's cool. That's fun. I think it's a no-lose proposition for an area starved for such extravaganzas. Bring it on.

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Twitter: @kerryeggersby: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: L.E. BASKOW - Vin Lananna (right), receiving a trophy at the Oregon Sports Awards, is being Portland's planning for the 2016 World Indoor track and field meet at the Oreogn Convention Center.

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