Inside CrossFit’s Smart Move to Double Down in Madison
CrossFit’s two-year extension with the city of Madison to host the CrossFit Games through 2021 came as a surprise to fans and stakeholders when it was announced last week. But the deal had been in the works for more than six months.
In the city of Madison and their local sports commission — the Madison Area Sports Commission — who just won the 2017 Sports Commission of the Year for a city under 500,000 residents, the CrossFit Games has found the perfect partner to create the best sports festival in the world.
Last year, more than $12 million in economic spending was generated across Dane County and CrossFit finally got the footprint they’d wanted but never got in Los Angeles — a total citywide takeover.
From marquee billboards to restaurants menu’s and a health conference at the iconic Monona Terrace, CrossFit completely consumed the town of Madison. Rogue Fitness even bought out a local restaurant for happy hours every day.
The time is now.
It wasn’t three months after the 2017 CrossFit Games ended that senior staff at CrossFit HQ were discussing what’s next. To move a festival this large, it takes 20 – 24 months of planning and CrossFit’s contract was up in 20 months.
Consider the magnitude of the CrossFit Games — 640 athletes competing in 213 events over four days with more than 70,000 fans. Coupled with the non-permanent nature of CrossFit’s equipment setup and Dave’s endless search for new ways to test athletes, the Games campus needs to be flexible, expandable and adaptable.
CrossFit executives had a choice: either immediately restart the process of putting the Games out to bid or extend with Madison.
“In terms of a proof of concept, we were very happy with how the campus performed and how the city performed,” said Justin Bergh, General Manager of the CrossFit Games. “It basically was a validation that we’re in the right city, that we have the campus we want to build on.”
Also an important determiner in the longevity of a location is how long before Dave and the programming team run out of creative ideas to test athletes.
“Do we really see ourselves running out of options in three years [in Madison]? No,” Bergh added.
Making the investment.
One major complaint from last year’s Games were the limited number of events which festival ticket holders had access to.
Out of 13 individual events, five were outside and only three of were watchable at the North Park Stadium, which has seats. The other two were Cyclocross and Run Swim Run which both had very limited viewability.
“We heard everybody loud and clear. One of the frustrations last year was that there were so many events inside the Coliseum,” Bergh said. “We’re going to be doing a lot more events outside this year. The CrossFit Games are not an indoor event.”
But hosting more events outside would require making some changes to the Alliant Energy Center.
“We made some capital improvements on the facility grounds that we want to be able to use for multiple years,” said Bergh.
CrossFit has already expanded the North Park Stadium to seat 10,000, roughly the same capacity as the indoor coliseum, and Dave Castro revealed a photo of a new outdoor pad under construction which will mirror the soccer stadium in Carson, CA.
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CrossFit didn’t reveal specific figures but said that the City of Madison and the Alliant Energy Center were co-investing in these infrastructure improvements. This is the first time in their 12-year history the CrossFit Games has made structural changes to a facility which will ultimately lead to a better Games for fans and athletes. And with three more Games planned not including this summer, there are ample opportunities to continue to expand and improve.