Press Box Design: What is needed for Track and Field?
The Press Box is typically located so that the media and necessary officials have an optimal view of the action going on in the sports arena. Football has a press box at mid-field, soccer has a press box at mid-field, baseball has a press box behind home plate or along first base line, basketball has a press area at mid-court along the sidelines, volleyball has a press area at mid-court along the sidelines and majority of sports locate their press box in a strategic location.
Tracks are designed with a Common Finish Line for all running events. In high school track and field there are about twelve (12) basic running events and sometimes more as additional relay events are added to a competition. Each event may have anywhere from two (2) to ten (10) or more heats, which puts it closer to fifty (50) or more races. If the competition is Co-ed, then that number will double, approximately.
Since the athletic venue is typically a shared facility with other sports, the press box is located at mid-field. The design of the press box is predominately designed for visibility of the field, which is surrounded by the running track. The windows are only on the front of the press box for view of the field. Window sill heights, counter space and seating are typically set up to have a comfortable view of the playing field.
This design setup does not work effectively with a track finish line that is approximately fifty (50) meters down field. Some press boxes may install a window on the side facing the finish line, which is helpful but not a great solution. The location is a major issue for tracking timing because of the poor visibility of the finish line, some start locations and even sometimes a limited view of all lanes on the track. The interior layout and functionality of the press box is always a concern with the timing crew.
With the large use of modular aluminum bleachers today it would seem feasible that seating could be located at or near the finish line to support the track fans and timing crew. A small press box at the finish line would be a great start for the timing process. In the days of hand timing they had a narrow section of bleachers for the timers to sit on at the finish line. Yes, currently there is a camera utilized on the finish line for timing purposes. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a “bad” picture isn’t always much help.
The timing system is a network of the camera, computers and scoreboards today, so there is flexibility in setup. At a minimum, if the timing crew has a good view of the finish line the meet management data entry and scoreboard interface can be in the press box at mid-field. They can be connected via a wired network. It is a decent option but when there are technical difficulties with the data communication it is helpful to be able to access each component quickly and efficiently.
My goal is to try and get stadium designs to move in this direction so that they are functional and beneficial for all sports utilizing the stadium. It makes for a better experience for personnel, spectators and ultimately for the athletes competing.