NCAA Fan interactive zone

For those of you unfamiliar with that acronym, it stands for Fan Interactive Zone, and it has become a vital component of both the fan and student-athlete experience at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

The meet opens today at historic Hayward Field with more than 1,100 men’s and women’s Division I collegiate athletes from 189 schools vying for individual honors in 42 events, plus men’s and women’s team trophies.

More than 40,000 spectators are expected to stream into Hayward Field over the next four days to watch the meet, and judging by last year’s debut, the “FIZ” will be one of the most popular stops for just about everyone at the meet.

The physical layout of the FIZ encompasses multiple tents, banners and “points of engagement” at the southeast corner of the track, directly across from the “flag grove” which displays flags of the participating countries in the IAAF World Junior Championships Oregon 2014, July 22-27, at Hayward Field.

Besides merchandise, guest services and concessions, there will be youth activities at the Starting Block, and a variety of elements in which fans and student-athletes can show their school pride and celebrate performances.

“The Fan Interactive Zone was one of our most popular innovations last year,” said TrackTown USA president Vin Lananna. “We want to encourage everybody that comes to the meet to take the time to stop by and experience the FIZ, which encompasses the uniqueness of the NCAA championships.”

Here’s what to expect at the FIZ:

The Starting Block. Managed by the City of Eugene Recreation Department, this is a place where children of all ages can jump over mini-hurdles and into high jump pits; sprint out of actual starting blocks and throw Frisbee discs, turbojavs and rubberized shot puts into a target wall.This station will also allow you to make your own personalized buttons.

The Starting Block adds to the magic of Hayward Field,” said Kim McManus, senior program supervisor for the City of Eugene’s Youth & Family Services. “We invite youth of all ages to get their hands on the implements, try some events, write fan mail and create unique buttons. There is so much energy with so many great athletes competing (at the NCAAs) that we find that energy carries out to the FIZ as well.”

The Hayward Field Experience. This is where you can build your own mini-flag by ironing on school slogans and team names to an 8-by-11 inch white nylon flag. Other elements will feature information from Travel Lane County, the Oregon Track Club and event-wide sustainability efforts.

The Bowerman Trophy. Take some time to gaze at The Bowerman, a stunning 35-pound trophy which will be presented to the most outstanding male and female collegiate track and field athlete at the coaches’ convention in December. Designed by former UO track and field athlete Tinker Hatfield, it stands 20 inches tall and 20 inches wide. It’s milled from a solid block of aluminum and plated with 18-karet gold. The bottom layer is a rubber, waffle-shaped outsole. You can also check out the 2014 NCAA men’s and women’s team championship trophies.

NCAA Participant Wall. This wall liststhe names and schools of each of the 1,114 student-athletes competing at the meet in alphabetical order. Fans and participants will be encouraged to take photos of individual names, share those images via social media and engage in a conversation about the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships with the official hashtag: #ncaatf

NCAA Wall of Champions.This is a brand new element. After each final event, the respective individual champion will receive his or her trophy, wave to the crowd, and then be asked to sign their names directly on this wall, which will be preserved and displayed at future NCAA meets. The signatures of the student-athletes will be next to their event, winning mark and school affiliation. In this way, those champions will live on through future NCAA Championships at Hayward Field.

So, when you show up at Hayward Field to watch the drama unfold at this year’s NCAA Championships, make sure you spend some time in the FIZ. You won’t want to miss it.