Construction creates Hayward Field with an open-air wood roof to represent the history and culture of Oregon’s forests. (Kimberly Harris/Emerald)

With two years to go before the International Association of Athletics Federation World Championships hosted at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, community organizers are asking for greater investment from the Oregon state government, and now, the organizers have a strong supporter — Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

In August 2021, Eugene will be the first American city to host the IAAF World Championships. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, “The local organizing committee for the world outdoor track championships, Oregon21, says it needs a state subsidy because ticket sales and sponsorships won’t come close to covering the cost of putting on the event.”

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“Oregon is committed to making sure that the first world track and field championships held in North America are a success,” Governor Brown’s office said in a statement. “This is a significant marketing and tourism opportunity to showcase our state and Oregon business, and we are working with stakeholders and legislators to identify outstanding needs and make sure they are funded by March of 2020.”

In a letter from Governor Brown to IAAF Chief Executive Officer Jon Ridgeon, Brown detailed “information about plans to maximize public investment in Oregon 21.”

The letter detailed 2016 legislation Brown signed that increased “the state lodging tax that included investments in large athletic events such as the 2021 IAAF World Championships.” The State Lodging Tax comes from transient lodgings like hotels. The tax was increased from 1% to 1.8% with the 2016 legislation. 

The legislature directs 10% of the tax to a competitive large grant program, which provides funding for “projects that contribute to the development and improvement of local communities throughout the state,” according to Travel Oregon, the state’s marketing agency.

Oregon21 was awarded $10 million for the 2021 IAAF World Championships, according to a December 2017 press release.

Oregon21 submitted a grant agreement in January 2018 to Travel Oregon. In an attached budget, the estimated spending for the 2021 event was placed at $85 million. Sponsorships would account for the majority of revenue, estimated at $51 million, while “contributions from IAAF and other organizations” came in at $16.5 million.

Board Chair of Oregon21 Paul Weinhold, while tracing the source of the requested $40 million, said that, “The lodging tax will be the main form. There will also be ticket revenue and financial support from USA Track and Field.” Tickets sales were estimated to bring in $18 million in revenue by the Oregon21 budget. 

Weinhold serves as president of the UO Foundation, a charitable foundation that “maximizes private gifts for the university’s benefit in accordance with donor intent,” according to its website.

The state marketing agency, Travel Oregon, committed a further $10 million “from a marketing and operations budget,” according to Brown’s letter. Global Communications Director for Travel Oregon Liena Gagliano said that the $10 million “is coming as a marketing initiative to leverage the opportunity to showcase Oregon on the world stage.”

According to her letter, Brown “included a request for $5 million in the budget,” presented to legislators, and planned on continuing “to identify another $5 million by the end of the year.” Brown planned to assign $1 million from a “Strategic Reserve Fund” while working with “local governments, regional tourism organizations, and state agencies to identify other opportunities for direct and value-in-kind investment.”

All of this allocation brought “total state commitment to $30 million,” Brown stated in her letter. She anticipated passing legislation in 2020 “to provide additional funding needed and continue to identify opportunities for the state to provide value-in-kind and direct support.”

Oregon Senator Floyd Prozanski represents Eugene in the state senate. “I do support the Governor’s request for the additional funding,” Prozanski said in a phone message. “This is an investment into the future, not only in the games but also for the state and for economic development in the community and in the state.”