Opinion: Brilliant opportunity for Oregon as world track championships unfold at Hayward Field

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Jim Etzel

Etzel is the general manager of Sport Oregon. He lives in Portland.

In less than a month, the cities of Eugene and Springfield will host the Oregon22 World Championships in Athletics, one of the largest and most-watched sporting events in the world. The championships will be held in the United States for the first time, bringing together the world’s top track and field athletes in a celebration of diversity, human potential and sporting achievement. This is a unique opportunity for Oregon to present itself as an equal player on the stage of international sporting events.

But that opportunity only exists because Oregon’s leaders and visionaries are committed to making it happen. It’s a reminder of the power we have to shape our own future, but only if we dedicate the time, resources and determination to make it so.

It starts with the commitment of individuals. The events will take place at the University of Oregon’s newly renovated Hayward Field, which is one of only seven International Association of Athletics Federations Class 1 certified tracks in the United States. Private donors, led by Phil and Penny Knight, have fully funded $270 million to modernize the iconic stadium, which opened in 1919. The facility will not only provide the setting for Oregon22, but promises to generate a significant economic impact in the decades to come.

But the state also played a key leadership role, pledging $40 million — a formidable amount — to prepare and welcome the world to Oregon. Through a patchwork of funding sources, Oregon Governor Kate Brown kept his promise, despite opposition from those who questioned whether the financial commitment was worth it.

There are many reasons to conclude that this will be the case. Over the course of 10 days in July, viewers around the world will be able to see the beauty of our state and witness the pride we take in our state’s sports, outdoor and recreation activities. Broadcasters, journalists, photographers and 2,000 world-class athletes representing more than 200 nations will all share the stories of competing in these championships with global audiences. Through print, social media and thousands of hours of television coverage that will be broadcast to more than a billion people around the world, Oregon can draw attention not only as a world-class competition and hospitality venue, but also as a vibrant place to live, work and play.

While the event will take place in Eugene, the economic impact of this event will boost the entire state. Tens of thousands of people will be visiting, which will mean overnight hotel stays and support for local small businesses – not just in Eugene and Portland, but along the Interstate 5 corridor.

A preliminary economic impact report, conducted by consulting firm ECONorthwest in the fall of 2015, estimated direct visitor spending associated with the event itself at $52 million. The report also shows that direct spending by visitors and the event totals $138 million, with the value of goods and services produced being approximately $205 million. The economic impact is also expected to extend well beyond the 10 days of competition through extended stays and return visits. At Sport Oregon, our mission is to generate positive economic impact and social impact through sport for the entire state. We work tirelessly with our partner partners to identify and attract major sporting events to Oregon. Opportunities like Oregon22 are created by having a bold vision and an engaged and coordinated stakeholder group.

For everyone who worked so hard to make this event a reality for Oregon, it’s a moment of excitement brimming with civic pride. Athletics is in the DNA of our state. Our state’s ability to land in Oregon22 proves that big ideas are also in our DNA.

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