If you have a ticket for this June’s Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, you’ll be getting a refund—but no guarantee that you’ll be able to purchase tickets under a new, limited-capacity seating plan that will be announced next month.
Officials at TrackTown USA, the local organizing committee for the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, said in a press release that they have “determined that the tickets held by existing customers cannot be fulfilled” in order to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a result, all ticket customers will have their tickets refunded. A revised ticketing program with an updated seat inventory that is compliant with new regulations will be announced in May.”
TrackTown did not yet announce what the capacity will be at Hayward Field, the new $270 million track facility at the University of Oregon, which is host to the Trials, June 18–27.
But it is expected to be a fraction of the 12,650 permanent seats at Hayward, to comply with local health guidelines.
The new arena can add temporary seating and expand to nearly 25,000 seats for big events, like the Trials and World Athletics Championships in 2022. But organizers are not installing the temporary seating this time, said Michael Reilly, CEO of TrackTown USA, in an interview with Runner’s World on April 2.
Athletes, officials, coaches, media and stadium personnel, such as concession workers and cleaning staff, are expected to be included in the capacity calculation, leaving fewer spots for spectators each day.
“Demand for tickets to the Olympic Trials continues to be at an all-time high and we are confident that some number of spectators will be able to attend the event if regulations allow. Unfortunately, we now know that we won’t be able to both comply with important public health regulations and fulfill the tickets that already have been sold,” Reilly said in the release.
“By starting over with an updated seat map and policies that account for new regulations, we are providing the public with the opportunity to make purchasing decisions based on information that is very different from when tickets were originally on sale.”
According to the release, athletes’ families will be given first priority to purchase tickets. The second level of priority will be ticket customers who retained their tickets until this point. Tickets will be sold only for individual days of competition, and customers will be limited in the number of seats and the number of days they can buy.
The state of Oregon and Lane County have experienced spikes in coronavirus cases in the past month, after seeing low numbers of cases through March. On April 20, the Oregon Health Authority reported 989 new cases statewide, and 82 new cases in Lane County, the highest rates of infection since mid-January.
Reilly and his team have to incorporate health and safety protocols from multiple bodies in the spectator plan for the Trials, including the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, USA Track & Field, the University of Oregon, the state, and the county.
“Our goal as the local organizing committee is to take the various protocols from the organizations and come up with one integrated operating plan that everyone can agree to,” Reilly said, while pointing out that it’s difficult to accurately predict where virus numbers will be in June.
“The landscape of this virus is still constantly changing,” he said.
The historic grandstands at Hayward Field were demolished in June 2018, immediately after the NCAA outdoor championships, and the work of building the new, state-of-the-art stadium began. It was originally scheduled to open in May 2020 for the Pac-12 championships, before competitions across the country ceased because of the pandemic.
In late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic, ticket sales for the Trials, originally scheduled for June 2020, were robust, Reilly said.
“We were well ahead of any pace that we had ever been on before,” he said. “We were really very excited by how many people wanted a ticket to the Olympic Trials.”
When the Olympics and the Trials were postponed by a year, TrackTown opened a 90-day window to process ticket refunds. About 20 percent of the ticket holders requested refunds, Reilly said, but the “vast majority” held onto their tickets, hoping to roll them over to this year.
TrackTown’s ticket sales revenue will decrease, forcing adjustments to the event’s budget in other areas.
“The operating budget is being adjusted in anticipation of reduced spectator capacity,” Reilly told Runner’s World. “Many aspects of the Olympic Trials in 2008, 2012, and 2016, such as the free fan festival, will not be part of this year’s event. Through careful planning and strong collaboration with our partners, we are confident in achieving a balanced budget.”
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