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American Track League Looks to Redefine Track and Field in U.S.

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/Pro   on Dec 11 2013, 07:15 PM

Olympic Talent, Unique Setup Defines New Series

By Scott Bush of Runnerspace

News broke earlier this week on the establishment of the American Track League, a series of five events hosted between May and June, with the hope of redefining how the sport of track and field is presented in the United States.  The five events, starting with an event in Bloomington, Indiana on May 2, features a condensed event schedule, live music and a mix of track and field events.

Paul Doyle of Doyle Management Group, and leader of the new series, staged the Atlanta Grand Prix earlier this year and through the success of the meet and support of the professional track and field athletes involved, discussions of something much larger started to take shape.

“We couldn't be happier with the way the meet (Atlanta Grand Prix) turned out and the feedback we got, so we immediately decided to host the event again in 2014 and try to replicate it at other venues,” says Doyle.

The Indiana event kicks off the American Track League calendar, followed by meets in Charlottesville, Virginia on May 9 and Atlanta on May 16. A May 23 event in Austin and a June 6 meet in Houston wraps up the series.

Presenting Something Different

At the Doha Goals Forum in early December, Olympic champion Michael Johnson was told Xinhua News, “Nothing has happened to change the sport in my time. We need to look at a new format, package it better to engage more fans. Other sports have done it to increase their fan base, why can't athletics?”

Johnson’s critique is one felt by many around the track and field community. While one-off competitions like the Prefontaine Classic showcase the very best of track and field in the United States, an organized, domestic circuit of track and field events is a move many have dreamed about for years.

“Bringing the fans close up to the athletes, especially in the field events, having a dance team, live upbeat music...these are all things that change the fan experience. We have to evolve and make our sport more entertaining if we are going to gain exposure and build a fan base,” says Doyle.

For years, domestic track and field events have been run much in the same way they were 20 years ago. While technology and entertainment continues to rapidly evolve, few have pushed the sport in a new direction, attracting new fans and presenting the sport in a more engaging way.

“The biggest thing is the entertainment aspect of these meets. It's not rocket science but adding a choreographed program with entertainment pieces and no down-time between events makes for a much more entertaining presentation and experience,” states Doyle.

Event logistics, sponsorship acquisition and recruitment of athletes are the next steps for Doyle and his staff.

When asked about what athletes have so far committed, Doyle explains, “We are establishing our meet programs in the next week, so to say we have confirmed athletes is a bit premature, but every athlete we have spoken to about this is on board. David Oliver, Lolo Jones, Christian Taylor, Ashton Eaton, DeeDee Trotter, Batman, Brad Walker, Reese Hoffa, Janay DeLoach. All those athletes are excited about the series and have expressed a strong interest in competing.”

Such talent would launch the American Track League on a good foot.

An optimistic Doyle is excited for the growth of the league, explaining a few late July and early August events are possible, especially along the west coast. While fans can start feeling excited, skeptics around the financial viability of the event can jump on board, too.

“There will be prize money and appearance fees for certain athletes. How much will depend on the final sponsorship dollars. Last year we funded the Atlanta meet's prize purse ourselves, and I am optimistic that the prize money will grow this year and in a few years hopefully be even beyond the level of the Diamond League,” says Doyle.

Coming announcements will shape the American Track League further, but for now it seems as though U.S. track and field fans have plenty to start getting excited about for the 2014 track and field season.

For a full transcript of our interview with Paul Doyle, check out Catching Up With Paul Doyle.

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