Great News: Revamped American Track League Announces 10-Meet Summer Series; All Meets Will Be Broadcast on ESPN
By Jonathan Gault
April 30, 2021
If you build it, they will watch.
That was Paul Doyle‘s hope, anyway, when he invested around half his net worth this past winter into the American Track League, a series of four indoor meets held at the University of Arkansas and broadcast nationally on ESPN.
Now, just like the ghosts emerging from Ray Kinsella‘s cornfield, there are signs that Doyle’s gamble is paying off.
Today the American Track League announced a 10-meet schedule for the 2021 summer season. All 10 meets will be broadcast live on ESPN.
Repeat: all 10 meets will be broadcast live on ESPN.
“To me, honestly, that’s what matters most, is getting exposure outside of the usual people watching our sport,” Doyle tells LetsRun.com. “Our ratings, every meet improved by about 20% indoors, and our last meet beat every NHL game on NBC Sports Network that month.”
Track & field meets are already shown on national television in the United States — just last weekend, NBCSN aired four hours of the Drake and Oregon Relays — but most of the meets in the revamped ATL series had previously been streamed. The added exposure in an Olympic year is a tremendous boost.
“I think that shows what’s possible for our sport and that’s why I felt the ESPN broadcast is essential,” Doyle says. “There’s a lot of creative things we can do and streaming is great for our spot, but I don’t think it’s reaching new fans. Whereas if we’re on ESPN, we’re in every sports bar in America.”
While the series now carries the American Track League name, it is a collaborative effort between Doyle and a number of meet directors across the country, including Jesse Williams, who has staged the successful Sound Running meets in California, Blake Boldon (director of the Drake Relays), and Dave Milner (Music City Track Carnival). In December, Williams had announced the formation of the Pro Track Series, consisting of seven meets with prize money awarded based on season-long standings. That series has been folded into the ATL for 2021, with the season-long prize money element remaining as an enticement for American athletes to compete stateside this summer as opposed to chasing races in Europe.
“The goals are simple,” Williams says. “We want to build a season fans can follow each year and more earning opportunities domestically for our stars. With the success that Paul already had with the indoor American Track League, it made sense to consolidate our efforts to make an even stronger outdoor season.”
While the American Track League won’t be able to rival the Diamond League when it comes to star power, it should have a solid pool of US-based talent from which to draw. It also has two built-in advantages in 2021. First, the meets will be easier for US athletes to travel to than Diamond League events, both in terms of distance and COVID protocols. And second, it allows athletes to prep stateside for the Olympics, rather than traveling to Europe and then on to Japan. The series benefited from this in 2016, when eventual Olympic medalists Clayton Murphy and Matthew Centrowitz, who won the 800 and 1500, respectively, at that year’s Olympic Trials, chose to stay in the US in between the Trials and the Olympics. The two tuned up for the Games by racing over 1000 meters at the ATL meet in Houston, which produced one of the races of the year.
The first meet of the 2021 ATL season is the Track Meet, which will be held in Irvine, Calif., on May 14-15. Williams will serve as meet director and has already secured top fields in the distance events, including Emma Coburn, Morgan McDonald, Laura Muir, Elle Purrier, Ben True, and many more.
The full list of events can be found below:
May 14 Track Meet Irvine, CA
May 31 Iowa High Performance Des Moines, IA
June 6 Music City Track Carnival Nashville, TN
July 4 Stars and Stripes Classic Atlanta, GA
July 10 ATL-SacTown Sacramento, CA
July 17 ATL-Meet of Angels Los Angeles, CA
July 24 ATL-Classy San Diego San Diego, CA
Aug 14 Ed Murphey Classic Memphis, TN
Aug 18 TBD Pacific Northwest
Meet 10 TBD