Longtime Mt. San Antonio college track and field coach Doug Todd, who is also the Director of Athletic Special Events, which includes planning for the popular Mt. SAC Relays and Mt. SAC Cross County Invitational, joked about going through withdrawals last weekend, because for the first time since since 2015, the Mt. SAC Relays were finally returning to the school.
But obviously the Mt. SAC Relays, like every other sporting attraction, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After a long four years of renovations that were delayed and delayed while it worked through a number of issues with the city of Walnut in order to finish renovations for Hilmer Lodge Stadium, the time had finally arrived to show it off.
Hilmer Lodge Stadium has been turned into a state of the art 11,500-seat stadium that could potentially expand to 20,000 seats for bigger events, but when it will make its long-awaited, much anticipated debut is anyone’s guess with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to stall sporting events for the foreseeable future.
The rebuilt stadium was designed for football and track and field, and features a nine-lane, 400-meter track, a natural turf infield, a new press box, and a giant 85’ x 37’ LED screen.
Todd said he dreamed of what the debut last weekend would have looked like.
“For all of us that take part in the Mt. SAC Invitational, we all sort of imagined the early starting events, the field events, the distance carnival and we kind of went through withdrawls thinking about it,” Todd said. “We were kind of living it in our heads even though it wasn’t here.”
Nobody could have predicted the unlikely events of this spring and the way the world has practically come to a standstill.
“It was disappointing no doubt about that,” Todd said of not being able to debut the stadium and host the Relays. “But I think the biggest thing is we were pushing so hard to have the stadium up and ready and done in time an it was nice to have met that goal. The shutdown was almost anti climatic. It’s was like, ‘are you kidding me, we go through all this and a virus is going to shut us down.’
“But we all get it, the health and safety of everyone is most important and when it’s time to show this beautiful stadium off, we will.”
In 2016, Todd spearheaded Mt. SAC’s bid to host the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials that was going to serve as the springboard for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
But the USATF was forced to pull out two years ago because of lawsuits they feared would delay the Mt. SAC stadium project and threaten its ability to host it in time.
It was a huge disappointment for Mt. SAC. But it turns out, they had the stadium ready. And it also turns out that the 2020 Olympic Trials and Olympic Games were also cancelled due to the coronavirus and rescheduled for the summer of 2021.
“Obviously it was disappointing when the (2020) trials were taken away,” Todd said. “But it never changed our goal to have the stadium ready in time, so for us, it was sort of vindication because we met that goal.
“But when we won the bid to host the Olympic trials and were building with that deadline in mind, we had other projects in the pipeline,” Todd said. “We wanted to present a nice, clean, brand new face to the world when the trials happened, and when that was taken away, we were able to start some other projects earlier, and that’s the next phase of this.”
Mt. SAC continues to build around the stadium and is working to complete a parking structure adjacent to the stadium, a new Aquatics Center, a new gym, tennis courts and Heritage Hall.
And when it is all finished, Mt. SAC has big plans for the future.
Mt. SAC has already signed to host the 2020-21 Mountain West track and field championships and is trying to bring the Big West Conference track and field championships next spring as well, according to Todd.
Mt. SAC would also like to be a future host of the NCAA Division 1 track and field championships and is hoping to work with the CIF Southern Section, where it could bid to host future CIF-SS and state track and field championships, as well as CIF-SS and state championship football games.
In other words, when the sports world opens, Mt. SAC is open for business again.
“The future is exciting,” Todd said. “We’ve got a lot going on here and when everything is finished this is going to be one of the best athletic facilities in Southern California. It’s certainly great for the San Gabriel Valley and we think we’re going to have a lot of exciting things happening when everything returns, whenever that day is.”