An upstart Orange County archery club is aiming to once again put sports-rich Mission Viejo at the center of a national competition.
The Saddleback Archery Club, just 18 months old, hopes to host the 2004 U.S. Olympic Archery Trials at Oso Viejo Park next June -- an idea receiving cautious support at City Hall.
The competition would identify which U.S. archers would compete in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece.
"This event fits with what Mission Viejo is all about," said Councilwoman Trish Kelley. "We're a sports-minded community. It's part of what sets us apart and makes us special."
Indeed, Mission Viejo has a history of hosting national and international sporting events -- including the 1984 Olympic long-distance cycling, the 1994 U.S. men's World Cup team training camp, and several national and international swimming and water polo competitions.
Among those also bidding to host the archery trials are Disney World in Florida, the national archery training center in Chula Vista and El Dorado Park in Long Beach, which hosted the 1984 Olympic archery competition.
Julio Campos, Saddleback Archery's president, said he is counting on his club's underdog role.
"I truly believe we'll be on the short list," said Campos, a hardware engineer who became involved in archery as a Cub Scout dad. "We're going to wow them."
Campos has already won support from the Mission Viejo City Council. Last week, it voted 4-0 to give Saddleback Archery the go-ahead to enter the bidding. The council, braced to trim as much as $2 million from the city's budget, was advised by staff that the event would cost the city at least $15,000.
It is unclear how much of that money the city would have to come up with, because Campos said he has already raised more than $7,000 from sponsors.
"This is not a done deal by any means," said Kelley. "We still have to see how the financing works out. But we're excited."
Said Councilman Lance MacLean: "Money is available to do things that benefit the community. The Olympic trials are something I think the community would embrace and create pride for the city."
Campos said he would submit paperwork within days. In October, the USA Archery board is expected to make a decision. If Saddleback Archery is selected from a group of about 12 clubs, some 200 archers would descend on Mission Viejo June 14-19.
Club officials say the event could draw 1,000 fans a day during the five-day competition, filling hotel rooms and bringing other business to the community. Competition would take place on two Oso Viejo fields with archers shooting at targets 70 meters away. Two more fields at the World Cup Soccer Center would be used as staging areas.
"A lot of people around here might not know that much about archery, but it's an elegant sport," said club co-founder Gary Holstein, a computer consultant who has been shooting arrows for more than 30 years. "Once you get past the first round, the competition is head-to-head, and it's very exciting."
For Saddleback Archery, the idea of hosting the Olympic trials began a month ago. After seeing a notice on USA Archery's Web site, Holstein floated the idea past the club's core members.
"They all looked at me said, 'Really? You think?' "
Eventually, Holstein said, everyone looked at each other and said "Why not?"
Holstein and his 14-year-old son, Daniel, are two of several Saddleback club members who could qualify for the trials.