When the Olympic Trials come to town, visitors get creative to find a place to stay

Posted by Becky Metrick and Sam Stites on Monday, Jun. 18 at 5:31 pm.

As students leave in hordes after finishing a school year — or in some cases, after graduating — the campus community is not anticipating the usual calm of summer. Instead, staff, students, business owners and residents are preparing for thousands of visitors to flock to Eugene for the 2012 Olympic Trials. These visitors, athletes, coaches and officials have all been looking for a place to stay, which has lead to a number of unusual options to pop up.

Starting back in early May, students and residents started posting open rooms on Craigslist, with “Olympic Trials” in big letters in the titles. Ranging from $75 a night to full rent prices of houses around campus — up $2805 — people are opening up their homes to whoever is willing to pay for the comforts of home. Some are simply looking for roommates, others are leaving for the duration of the trials.

Up to the week before, there were up to 16 posts on a given day hoping to help people secure last-minute housing.

If people wanted something a little more reliable than a college student’s sublet, they could rent a room in the residence halls.

Back in 2008, the organizers of the Trials were concerned that there would not be enough space for all the visitors expected to come to the town. It was then that they decided to open up the residence halls.

“We tried it  in ’08 and we ended up having over 600 spectators signed up to come,” said Tom Driscoll, the associate director of housing. “We actually started to get requests about a year and a half ago from people that had stayed here in ’08, wanting to come back.”

This year, they’re looking at housing more than 700 people in Hamilton alone for the Trials. In Carson, they’ve allotted room for Trials officials, and in the LLC they’ve reserved room for athletes. These arrangements are on top of the usual summer plans for camps and conferences, all coming in at the same time.

This year, they even have people on a waiting list. People were directed to Housing through the Travel Lane County website, where they applied and committed to at least a four-day stay.

“As in ’08, there are a lot of people who are really hardcore track fans,” Driscoll said.  “There’s a lot of folks end up hanging out in the cafeteria, talking track. It ended up being a really nice community group.”

Of course, some of the hotels in the area are going to be inviting hundreds of guests into their rooms for the event.

Sarah Smith, general manager at the Holiday Inn Express on Franklin Blvd., said that her business was home base to a throng of elite athletes during the 2008 trials and will host a multitude of track and field stars again this year thanks to a partnership with the agency National Travel Systems. She explained that the entire hotel will geared toward those competing and those looking to watch the Olympic talent at work.

“This year we still have a lot of elite athletes that are staying with us, but the mix is a little bit different with coaches and spectators as well,” Smith said. “All our staff will be wearing TrackTown shirts, we have specially made key cards, we have a welcome sign, and we plan on having a reception to greet all those staying with us to make them feel at home during the trials.”