Why two 2028 Los Angeles Olympics events are moving to Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City will provide settings for part of the Hollywood story when the 2028 Summer Olympics come to Los Angeles.

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Softball and canoe slalom Olympians will be 1,300 miles from Southern California when the competition is hosted by Los Angeles for a third time in 2028.

The partnership between the two cities, announced last week in an updated venue plan from organizers, is a move designed to use existing sports facilities and keep costs down.

LA28's updated plan announced Friday moves softball and canoe slalom 1,300 miles east of the host city to the Oklahoma capital. The proposal has been approved by the International Olympics Committee, pending approval from the City of Los Angeles.

No new permanent venues are expected to be built in Los Angeles, which was named the host city in 2017. The city previously hosted the Summer Olympics in 1984 and 1932.

Under the updated venue plan, gymnastics will be at downtown LA's Crypto.com Arena, swimming will be at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood and basketball will be at the under-construction Intuit Dome in Inglewood. Track and field events will remain at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which also hosted events in 1932 and 1984. Events are also planned for the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area in the San Fernando Valley, the pool on the USC campus and venues in Long Beach.

Temporary venues and additional construction would be needed to host softball and canoe slalom, something LA28 has said it will avoid.

That's where Oklahoma City comes in with two settings for part of this Hollywood story.

“Oklahoma City has hosted many international competitions at our unique, world-class whitewater and softball venues,” Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said. “We are confident we will be an outstanding partner to LA28 in creating a dynamic environment for Olympians and fans. We are excited about the opportunity to support one of America’s great global cities, Los Angeles, and work closely with the LA28 organizing committee to ensure that the 2028 Olympic Games are a success.”

Here's what to know about the events in Oklahoma City.

Images: See venues planned for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics

About the 2028 Olympics softball venue

In Friday's announcement, LA28 said the decision to move softball to the 11,000-seat Devon Park, which hosts the annual Women’s College World Series, had everything to do with logistics.

No softball field in the Los Angeles area seats more than 2,000 fans.

The sport has deep roots in Oklahoma City, providing Team USA with a hometown advantage. Devon Park is on the grounds of USA Softball’s headquarters and the USA Softball Hall of Fame.

Improvements have been made over the years. From 2013 to 2015, the facility added dugouts, underground locker rooms and training rooms. Renovations to the outer entrances and press box area began in 2018, and a three-story press box was added with new interview rooms around that time. About 4,000 permanent seats were added after the 2019 World Series.

os Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics across various pre-existing locations around the city and surrounding areas. Oklahoma City will host some events due to limited venue space and the goal to not construct temporary venues solely for the Olympics.

Those improvements, along with smaller ones since, helped put Oklahoma City in position to host the Games.

“Things cost a lot of money these days,” USA Softball executive director Craig Cress said during the World Series earlier this month. “We’re fortunate the city’s been really gracious to us.”

The stadium hosted the U-18 Women's Softball World Cup 2015. Later this year, it will host the World Baseball Softball Confederation Men's Softball World Cup Group C.

The United States will become the only nation to host two Olympics softball competitions in 2028. The sport debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

"We're thrilled with the announcement of Softball Park in Oklahoma as the venue for LA28, it's the perfect stage for the best softball athletes in the world to realize their Olympic dream," said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari. "The cutting edge stadium, arguably one of the best softball stadiums in the world, will give us and LA28 the opportunity to spread the passion for Olympic softball in the US and around the world, while using an existing facility for the Games, in alignment with the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020+5 recommendations, which emphasizes sustainability by encouraging the use of existing stadiums beyond the region of the host city."

Paris 2024 opted to only build two new venues as a way to cut their carbon footprint. Los Angeles will build no new permanent venues for the 2028 Summer Games. National climate reporter Chase Cain visits the venues of the Paris Olympics.

About the 2028 Olympics canoe slalom venue

The other venue set to be used in 2028 is Oklahoma City’s Riversport OKC, which hosted the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials in canoe slalom. No canoe slalom venue exists in Southern California or the western United States, LA28 said in its announcement. 

The site is along the Oklahoma River in the downtown Boathouse District.

Casey Eichfeld, a four-time Olympian, participated in the trials in April and had good memories of the event, even though there were storms in the area on the second day.

“The crowds are awesome,” he said. “And even with that weather, there were still a number of people that showed up to the race, and were there to cheer for us and to watch. They stuck it out the rain and the wind, and it was really cool to have have that environment, even though maybe the weather was a little less than ideal for an outdoor sport."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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