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Volume 20 No. 41
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Olympic trials put up some big ticket numbers

Record ticket sales are being reported for this week’s marquee Olympic trials.

USA Gymnastics and USA Track & Field have sold more tickets for this week’s trials than they did in 2008, and USA Swimming has topped its gross ticket sales number of $4.4 million and expects to sell more than the 160,000 tickets it sold to its event four years ago.

An athlete warms up before the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, where nearly all of the competitions have sold out.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
Organizers for all three events credited marketing efforts and the expansion of fan festivals, which were added to trials events over the last decade, with driving ticket sales increases. Track and field and swimming also benefited from returning to the same host markets they visited in 2008 — Eugene, Ore., and Omaha, Neb., respectively.

“The trials model has evolved beyond being just about the sports to become a community event,” said USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny. “We’ve all tried to extend our walls beyond the field of play and it’s paying off.”

USA Gymnastics has exceeded its sales goals for its trials, which begin this week in San Jose. The organization is working with the local sports authority on the event. It has sold more than $2.5 million in tickets, exceeding what it sold in Philadelphia in 2008. The sales success comes on the heels of the record attendance of 24,714 that turned out for its Visa Championships in St. Louis earlier this month.

Penny said the organization has had help from 300 local gymnastics clubs that are selling tickets. It also has used Olympians and past world champions in the market on a regular basis to keep the event in the local media.

The organization will have a Visa Fan Fest adjacent to HP Pavilion where visitors can get autographs and face paint and work out. There will be an AT&T Block Party and bands will play before and after the event.

USA Track & Field, which opened its trials over the weekend in Eugene, is seeing similar success. The Oregon Track Club, which is organizing the event, added 1,200 temporary seats for the event and has nearly sold out all of the competitions at the expanded, 19,200-seat Hayward Stadium. Only a few daily tickets remained as of press time last week.

The organizers also expanded its fan festival area. TrackTown, as the 240,000-square-foot area is called, will be 40,000 square feet larger than it was in 2008. It will feature live music, a beer zone developed by microbrewer Deschutes Brewery, and a Nike store that is the size of an international soccer field.

“Tickets went quickly, but we still wanted people to be able to celebrate the event being in town, and the fan festival being free allows them to do that,” said Mike Higgins, partnership manager at SportsOne, an Oregon marketing agency that is managing the fan zone.

USA Swimming increased its ticket prices by $3 on average to $50, $65 and $80 for its trials, which begin today. The organization expects to sell more than the 160,000 tickets sold in 2008; it already has sold 153,000 and topped its gross ticket total from 2008 by $300,000.

“We’re very pleased right now and believe it could end up a lot better,” said Mike Unger, USA Swimming chief operating officer. “For us, this is the last time [Michael] Phelps is swimming in the U.S., and we’re pushing that locally.”

The organization is bringing back its fan festival, known as the AquaZone. It will offer visitors the chance to visit sponsor displays from Speedo, AT&T and others.