Nick Symmonds offers Vegas plan to jumpstart pro track & field

Nick Symmonds, the great 800-meter man, is retired from pro track but not trying to fix the sport. He doesn’t turn 35 until the end of 2018, but maybe he’ll have ideas for masters as well. “If I could raise $2–3 million,” he writes, “I could put on the world’s greatest and most modern track and field meet. But first things first, it would have to be in Nevada because gambling is legal there, so ideally that means Las Vegas. The additional revenue from gate receipts, food and beer sales, and gambling proceeds would be key to making it work.”

Nick would even sacrifice the 800 for a better spectator meet experience.

Here’s the rest of the Nick Plan:

Breaking it down on a very basic level, I’d use $1 million for expenses and $1 million for prize money. There
would be 10 events each, with a $100,000 winner-take-all prize. Every athlete in the world would show up to compete—except maybe Usain Bolt, who can command a $250,000 appearance fee. But you’d have marquee names and top-tier competition in every event, and that’s important.

Of all of the things I have suggested, yes, the quality of competition is important, the music and entertainment are important, the food and the booze are important, and the fun atmosphere is important. But the No. 1 thing is gambling. It is the most critical component and I wouldn’t even think about an event production without it. I know there are purists out there who think track and field doesn’t need these things to be popular. I’m sorry, but those people are wrong. Football would be a much less popular sport in America if gambling wasn’t such a big part of it in so many ways. And anyone who says fantasy football isn’t gambling is delusional.

If I told everyone in the stadium and on TV what the athletes were racing for and actually presented a suitcase full of cash at the finish line so people could see what it was all about, that would be meaningful. As it is now, every May people tune in to NBC Sports or happen to land on that channel to see the Prefontaine Classic from Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., and they have no idea who the athletes are, what the races mean or what the athletes are actually racing for—even though there might be tens of thousands of dollars on the line.

My event would be two hours long, with a 30-minute pre-meet show that includes eating, drinking, music, Jumbotron videos and a chance to place bets. It would start at 7 p.m. and go to until 9 p.m. and it would be full of fast-paced action from start to finish. When there is a transition and they’re setting up starting blocks or changing events, there will be music with a big sound system and the hottest hits, dancing, more videos and flinging T-shirts into the stands. Ideally, there would also be an interactive app that engages fans in the stands and around the world with the chance to comment and connect, consume and share content on social media and, of course, win stuff from sponsors.

It’s got to be fun, almost like the atmosphere of a concert, but with track and field taking place.

For kids, we’d have an 18-and-under zone where only they can go in and get photographs and autographs of the top athletes. The bottom line is it would have to give fans a lot of bang for their buck, make it exciting and memorable, all while celebrating the very highest level of track and field.

The meet would include only a limited schedule of events so it could be kept tight and full of nonstop action. I think at the Olympic Games you have to have all 32 standard events because that’s what the Olympic Games is all about. But when you’re talking about a for-profit event, that is specifically about raising the level of the experience, increasing exposure and making money, you’re not going to have the women’s hammer throw or the men’s 10,000-meter run.

Of the 10 events, you’d start with the men’s and women’s 100-meter dashes, maybe the women’s 800m, the men’s mile and men’s and women’s 400m, plus some of the best field events like long jump and pole vault. We might have a couple of relays, too, because those can be exciting and fun for fans, especially with the gambling aspect. I don’t think the men’s 800m would make the cut, and that sucks because it’s my favorite event, but I’ve got be brutally honest here, and we’ve got to have events that will put people in the stands and keep the excitement level high.

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July 25, 2017

9 Responses

  1. Matt B. - July 25, 2017


  2. whowouldbeyourdaddy - July 26, 2017

    Give the guy credit for thinking outside the box.

  3. Mike Sullivan - July 26, 2017

    What BOX

    My whole life people have talked about a BOX..

    THERE IS NO BOX………..

    Once one realizes there is no BOX, the IMPOSSIBLE becomes possible……

    Most people walk away from their dreams not afraid they may fail ….worse….afraid they may SUCCEED….

    Go for it NICK


  4. Jeff Davison - July 26, 2017

    There are many international meets hence there will be several schedule conflicts.

    Hence: How many meets? What level of athletes can compete in this and the diamond league?

    Add exhibition masters events to this meet concept?

  5. Michael D Walker - July 26, 2017

    Interesting to get a Pro’s perspective and it is certainly an idea worth considering. Maybe if we allowed betting at the track, attendance at Masters meets would increase as would revenue.

  6. Milan Tiff - July 26, 2017

    Nick, just produce a top drawer, self sufficient track meet. With each athlete getting an equal share of the profits. I bet Televison would buy into it, but the federations wouldn’t sanction it. Thus creating another level of Track and Field ( ineligibility ) for athletes to have to make a decision on.

  7. Ab - July 26, 2017

    Horse, dog, or human race makes no difference. Many people really don’t know what a quality race is anyway, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the gambling aspect that makes it fun and entertaining. Horse racing around here has 10 races or so, and people just mill about, eating, drinking and placing bets b/w races. Neat idea.

  8. Steve Morris - July 26, 2017

    Many years ago at the Bill Cosby Invitational Indoor Track Meet in Reno, NV, meet management tried the betting concept on track races. For some reason it didn’t FLY! Nick should look into why it didn’t work with fans.

    He should also look back at why in 1962 the USA vs Russia track meet drew 150,000 fans in just 2 days at Stanford Stadium. Even the Soviet workouts drew over 5,000 fans

  9. peter van aken - July 28, 2017

    Nick isn’t including the women’s hammer throw in his proposal, but why not include this event with Nick himself chained to a spot on the 75 meter arc, and allow betting on which woman could come the closest?

    The event implement is a dense metal ball connected to a metal handle with a thin steel wire, but so many media references and non-competitors erroneously refer to the implement as a “ball and chain”- so why not have the “ball and chain” attached to Nick?

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