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TRACK AND FIELD

New Meet Planned for L.A.

November 16, 2000|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The inaugural Los Angeles Indoor Track and Field championships, to be held Feb. 11 at Staples Center, has no title sponsor. It has commitments from merely two world-class runners, Regina Jacobs and Jon Drummond. It's not yet part of USA Track & Field's Golden Spike tour.

However, organizers and participants believe that the meet can help revive spectator interest in the sport in Southern California. They said Wednesday during a news conference at the L.A. Athletic Club that they envision this meet, which will include high school and college competitions, as a platform to attract new fans and start a new tradition.

"This has been a long time coming," said Drummond, who lives in Culver City and was a member of the gold medal-winning men's 400-meter relay team at the Sydney Olympics.

"L.A. and Hollywood and the California area have been needing to have what New York has had [Millrose Games]. Let's jump on board and make this a happening."

Said Skip Stolley, chairman of the organizing committee: "The truth is we don't have any marquee events here. We're trying to create a marquee event indoors. The first step is to have this event at Staples Center. Our next objective is to do it outdoors. . . . We're looking to bid for the NCAA championships, and we're going to bid on the Olympic trials, all events that have been here before."

The meet will be televised live on Channel 4 after the NBA All-Star game.

"We found it a bit of a crime to look at the Olympic track and field team and see 20% of the athletes came from Southern California, yet we do not have any great meets here," said Tim Leiweke, president of Staples Center.

"We believe in the future of the sport, not only for this event in February, but we believe we'll be talking to you for years."

A new, 11-lap, 160-yard synthetic track with curves that can be lowered hydraulically for sprint races will be used.

The meet will be held three weeks after the 41st L.A. Invitational at the Sports Arena. That event, promoted by Al Franken, has struggled to draw fans and sponsors in recent years. It lost Sunkist as title sponsor in 1995, after 26 years, and Franken has not found a replacement.

"Anything that can push track is good," Franken said. "Our meet always did better when the Times was doing its meet. What track needs is more media attention and more television coverage."

Stolley said that he hopes to have major sponsors signed soon. He also said organizers have a "relationship" with manager Emanuel Hudson and Coach John Smith of the HSI track club in Westwood, which counts Maurice Greene, Ato Boldon and Inger Miller among its members, and added he has been negotiating with 40 to 50 Olympians.

"Stars from Sydney, mostly Americans," Stolley said.

Hudson said no members of his club except for Drummond and Jacobs have committed to the meet. "But if any of the others do run indoors, it will be here," he said.

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