Drake hopeful of drawing fans, huge 2016 events

Relays director Brown thinks big

BYU's Lacey Bleazard, right, takes off at the start of a women's 800-meter run semifinal at the NCAA outdoor track and f
BYU's Lacey Bleazard, right, takes off at the start of a women's 800-meter run semifinal at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DES MOINES — Drake Relays director Brian Brown thinks big.

That philosophy has served him well and could help net Des Moines a dream-worthy doubleheader in four years.

"Ideally, the next time would be 2016 for an NCAA championship and the Olympic Trials," Brown said Friday. "That would be ideal."

And historic for the state.

One element of vital importance toward that end is based in the Drake Stadium bleachers. After attracting a then-record 41,187 fans for the NCAA meet in 2008, total attendance dipped to 29,377 last year. This week’s event drew 20,048 fans.

"I think by and large, Des Moines has proven to still be very supportive," he said. "I know from a committee standpoint, our NCAA committee continues to be overwhelmed and overjoyed. We always want more. We always want to have the stands full. We’re used to a certain level, even on a Friday, Friday night of a Drake Relays. So for those of us who are near and dear, we want more numbers."

Oregon, which broke Drake’s outdoor meet attendance record in 2010, hosts nationals the next two years.

Eugene is the site of the June 21-July 1 U.S. Olympic Trials and with Des Moines tops a short list of venues capable of putting on such top-flight outdoor events.

Drake Stadium will play host to next year’s USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

So what does Des Moines need to do in order to contend for those top events in 2016?

"The key to 2016 is this community of leaders working with the governing bodies, whether it’s the NCAA or USA Track and Field, to agree on a process that we can (increase attendance)," said Brown, who hopes to see an indoor facility added for the athletes. "We have to. And if we’re going to be really serious, which we are, about 2016, the key ... is the stadium facility and butts in seats."

Miller’s time

Former Tipton prep Ashley Miller’s record-breaking career at Nebraska may have ended, but she’ll be balancing running and studying for the foreseeable future.

Miller will attend graduate school at Tennessee while pursuing a professional running career.

Panther pride

UNI didn’t crown All-Americans this week but put together a string of solid performances.

One Panther on the rise? Former Monticello standout Jordan Williams, who placed 14th in the men’s discus Wednesday.

"(He’s) going to be elite next year. He’s definitely going to be in the top five, no problem," said UNI senior Justin Romero, who was 19th in Saturday’s shot put. "He’s got the work ethic."

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.