For 99 years at Hayward Field, fans cheered from a pair of wooden bleachers as world-class runners, throwers, and jumpers drew crowds, broke records, and made Eugene, Ore., famous as Track Town USA.
Today, a spaceship-like stadium rises from those hallowed grounds. And like all of the finest, state-of-the-art buildings in North America, it has the IBEW’s fingerprints all over it.
|EC Electric foreman Megan Denton on the job at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene, one of about 250 members of Local 280 — including her father and brother — who worked on the historic project.
|The 188-foot Hayward Field Tower, wrapped in a metal skin with images honoring Oregon track and field legends, posed the biggest challenge for EC Electric crews. Ultimately, they created a new mounting system to install thousands of LED lights. They pre-installed light strips on the tower’s crowd before a crane placed it on top in February 2020. Credit: Hayward Field/Oregon Athletics
|Massive steel bents, below, were sheathed in Oregon timber to create the stadium’s futuristic roof, creating a unique and challenging structure for wiring lights and speakers. At top, an IBEW member checks the finished work. Credits: top, Megan Denton/Local 280; below, Hayward Field/Oregon Athletics construction archives.
“It’s a remarkable structure,” said Curtis Crane, one of about 250 members of Salem, Ore., Local 280, who worked on the project between 2018 and 2021. “It was called a renovation but it was really a complete rebuild from the ground up.”
From its debut at last year’s Olympic trials to this week’s World Athletic Championships, fans, competitors, and media have swooned, calling the reimagined venue “mind-blowing,” “jaw-dropping,” “a work of art,” and “track-and-field heaven,” among other raves.
“Here’s the little state of Oregon and it’s got the best track and field facility in the world,” Local 280 Business Manager Drew Lindsey said. “And there’s a whole city underneath that thing that people don’t see.”
That includes below-ground tracks, training facilities for every discipline — even ceilings high enough for world-record pole-vaulting — spaces for sports medicine and recovery, enviable locker rooms and amenities galore, all of it surrounded by artwork and displays celebrating a century of track and field tradition.
Signatory contractor EC Electric led the $270 million project’s vast and complex electrical work, farming some of it out to other IBEW-signatory contractors to meet a formidable deadline: the Olympic trials originally set for June 2020.
From the start, electricians worked six-day weeks, 10 hours a day, with other crews coming in at night, a pace that slowed down only slightly when the pandemic pushed the Olympics to 2021. Days were even longer for foremen such as Megan Denton and Christina VanLeeuwen, who carpooled 45 miles south to Eugene, arriving by 6 a.m. and staying at least 12 hours.
“I pretty much put my home life on hold for two years. If I had a day off, I was sleeping,” Denton said with a laugh.
From the stadium’s show-stopping basement to futuristic seating hugging a nine-lane track to an LED-lit 188-foot tower resembling an Olympic torch, IBEW crews wired, installed, and innovated on a grand scale.
Crane, an EC Electric field supervisor, said the project required out-of-the-box thinking — literally. “There really aren’t any right angles,” he said. “Pretty much everything about the building was different than the norm.”
At times, even suppliers were stumped when crews sought guidance working with custom materials designed for a structure like no other. Denton and VanLeeuwen respectively called those situations “guess and checks” and “one-offs,” challenges unique to the job.
“You’d call the manufacturer with questions and say, ‘This was made for this facility, and you don’t have any suggestions?” VanLeeuwen said, citing the intricate work of fitting handrails with tiny LED puck lights as an example.
She also was part of the team tackling EC Electric’s single biggest challenge: lighting Hayward Field Tower, which anchors the stadium’s entrance and is large enough at its base to enclose a 4,000-square-foot interactive museum. A metal-paneled skin featuring images of Oregon track legends wraps the exterior.
“We invented a previously unknown mounting system for it,” said Crane, who led the tower’s electrical work. Crews installed 678 luminary strips to encircle the tower, each strip two feet long with 24 red, green, blue, and white LEDs that can project virtually all colors and create an animated light show.
Eugene’s second-tallest structure, the tower was an instant icon. Sports Illustrated described it as “almost unfathomable. It gleams on sunny afternoons. At night, it can be lit up, like the Empire State Building.”
The original Hayward Field opened in 1919. The athletes made famous there are legion, but its DNA is inseparable from two of them: long-distance phenom Steve Prefontaine and his University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman.
Prefontaine, or Pre as he is still known today, was just 24 when he died in a car crash on a hill overlooking Hayward Field in 1975. Bowerman died in 1999, some 40 years after pouring rubber into his wife’s waffle iron to cobble a better running shoe. In the early 1960s, he teamed up with a business-minded, middle-distance runner he’d coached by the name of Phil Knight and Nike was born.
“We felt the weight of history, and we were very proud to be part of it,” said Lindsey, whose Willamette Valley local stretches to Eugene and central Oregon. “A legacy project on this scale is something that comes along once in a lifetime — if you’re lucky.”
For Crane, there’s a personal connection. A longtime Eugene resident, he’d attended meets at Hayward and used to run its bleachers for fitness. They’ve been replaced now by more than 12,000 ergonomic-friendly seats, protected by secure entrances that don’t allow for casual use of the stadium.
But that doesn’t stop the curious from wanting a look.
“I go there frequently now to assist the facility operators and there’s a never-ending stream of people who come up and try to get in,” Crane said. “It’s a pilgrimage for them. It’s fun to see how excited they are about the location and its history and importance in the track and field world.”
Denton was a freshman journeyman in fall 2018 when she was assigned to crews laying PVC pipe, preparing the site for concrete pours. A few months later, she was promoted to foreman. Her father Tim Miller and brother Jacobb Miller also were part of the Local 280 team.
Talking about the project, she exudes delight. “As hard as we worked, it was so much fun,” Denton said. “With the championships this week and people all over the world seeing the stadium, it’s really cool to think that ‘I was right there and I climbed that and I pulled that wire.’ We were everywhere in that building.”
For more details, photo galleries, and videos about Hayward Field’s legacy and reconstruction go to hayward.uoregon.edu.