Its redesign has made it one of the world’s best track & field facilities of today
Hayward Field is a historic place, even magical for anyone who loves athletics. “This is where it all began.” Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike and former middle-distance runner for the Ducks ‒ a college athletics and American football team particularly famous in the States ‒ has stated this many a time. It was here that the first running shoes were tested out, thanks to the involvement of prominent athletes such as Steve Prefontaine. Still today this history feeds the reputation of the University of Oregon, renowned for its innovative and well-structured athletics programmes. And the new design of the Hayward Field stadium is based on this legacy. SRG Partnership, the studio appointed for the project, in fact set out from this strong past identity without embalming it in history: today the facilities are among the best in the world for track and field events.
A theatre for athletics: thanks to SRG Partnership’s input, Hayward Field now sets a new standard for the experience enjoyed by athletes and fans ‒ who are ever closer and united, and involved in the action and sporting performance. Comfortable seating for all spectators, a variety of food and beverage service options, plus excellent sight lines, with a capacity of 12,650 places (expandable to almost 25,000).
Besides its nine-lane competition track, this stadium also offers numerous features catering to athletes’ needs during training, as well as general areas such as public concourses, ramps and the winding staircases to climb the impressive Hayward Tower. The basement level also provides spaces for training and recovery, including various indoor practice amenities, a six-lane track, a 140m straight away and a two-storey hall for long jump, triple jump, throws and pole vault. These are accompanied by a 100-seat team auditorium, changing rooms, lounge and shared study spaces, and a weights room, but also spaces pivoting on nutrition and personal care.
Open sight lines for all, spectator proximity to athletes, the first row of seating at the new level of the nine-lane track: these are features creating a unique intimacy between athletes and fans, and this is why SRG Partnership has focused on the finest details of these aspects. Even acoustics play an important role: sound arrives sooner and amplifies the action, creating a thrilling sensory experience. The seating area of the arena is asymmetric, precisely to bring the greatest number of fans closer to the track finishing line. “Athletics has the largest competition surface compared to any other sport,” explained Aaron Pleskac, Principal at SRG Partnership. “Would you prefer to watch a competitor throwing a javelin or see where the javelin lands? The pole vault takes place in the middle, for instance. Some races start three-quarters of the way round the track instead of including a whole lap. The stadium is a theatre and as such it should adapt to the needs of each single discipline.”
The Hayward Tower stands nine storeys tall and is the emblem of the entire stadium, acting as a landmark for the campus and the whole community. It is also where the main public entrance is located, and inside it accommodates public transport amenities, offices and meeting rooms. In addition, an open upper deck may be used by all Hayward visitors to enjoy a 360-degree view of the town of Eugene and the surrounding valley. The tower exterior is clad in perforated metal panelling, which features images of five icons of Oregon track and field events: the legendary coach Bill Bowerman, Steve Prefontaine, Raevyn Rogers, Ashton Eaton and Otis Davis. Its shape is partly reminiscent of the famous Olympic torch, as it flares out and up towards the sky.
Not everybody knows that Hayward Field offers a lot more to experience besides sports events. The stadium also houses a museum ‒ designed in conjunction with Gallagher ‒ on the history of Oregon Track & Field and Bill Bowerman, who chose it as Nike’s birthplace. The spotlight is also on former Ducks team members, and elements of the iconic Oregon brand, with graphics echoing Bowerman’s original sketches ‒ the ones that would then feature on the original Nike shoes. As a tribute to the nations of the athletes who have competed at Hayward, a series of 156 flags have been positioned along the south side of the stadium.
The almost magical blend of all these ingredients makes Hayward Field one of the most innovative facilities in the world, a special place and an inspiration for aspiring young athletes and students.
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Architects: SRG Partnership
Photography by Kevin Scott, courtesy of SRG Partnership