Drake’s Olympic Quest
Drake Stadium Sets Sights on Hosting 2016 Olympic Trials
The $15 million revitalization of Drake Stadium five years ago has started paying dividends to both the University and to Des Moines. It may have been simpler and cheaper to demolish the 85-year-old stadium and build a new one from scratch, but the venerable red brick grandstand held years of nostalgic memories for too many. Tourism incentives turned restoration into a practical alternative to demolition, creating a unique and historic venue that held great potential for luring signature events to Des Moines.
“We have been hosting at least one major event every year that brings in $5–$20 million in community spending,” said Sandy Hatfield Clubb, Drake athletic director.
The NCAA Track & Field Championships came to Drake in the midst of Des Moines’ 2008 floods, and yet more than 11,000 fans turned out on the final day. The Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics visited the following summer and then committed to returning in 2014. This summer, the USA Track & Field (USATF) finals will come to Drake in a special year for that event.
“This is our big year because it’s the only year in a four year cycle in which ours is the ultimate track meet — there are no Olympics or World Championships following it,” said Doug Logan, USATF director. “It’s the big event, and we’re delighted to be holding it in Des Moines.”
Last year the NCAA announced that Drake Stadium would again host its track championships in a previously unprecedented back-to-back deal for both 2011 and 2012.
Each of these events has played a role in Drake Stadium gaining recognition. But the brass ring of athletic events is yet to be hosted in the stadium.
“The 2016 Olympic trials have yet to secure a location,” said Relays Director Brian Brown. “Bringing the Olympic Track & Field Trials to Drake Stadium continues to be our quest.”
Because Chicago failed to land the 2016 Olympics, the trials are up for grabs. Des Moines and Eugene, OR, seem to be the leading venues of choice. “Both locations have shown the kind of ticket sales, crowd, community enthusiasm and general atmosphere that the U.S. Olympic Committee wants,” said Brown.
— Jim Duncan