The last two weekends, Holt Arena played host to the Simplot Games and the Big Sky Indoor Conference Championship meet, two regional track meets which bring hundreds of athletes and their families to Pocatello.
The Simplot Games has been an annual fixture in the Pocatello community, giving the chance for high school athletes from roughly 19 states in the U.S. as well as from Canada and Australia to come and compete, while the Big Sky Indoor Championships features the top track and field athletes the Big Sky has to offer.
Running these events is a task that takes months of planning. The man behind that planning is ISU Director of Events George Casper.
“In early January, myself and our maintenance staff sit down with the organizers of the Simplot Games and basically go over all the specific logistic details of putting together the meet itself,” Casper said.
“That includes all the particulars of the setups that we’re going to need to do for the games, the timing of the games and other things. We have a very extensive, exhaustive setup list we go through to make sure we know what needs to go where and when.”
“The thing is, the people in the community have embraced the games so there’s a ton of support and we get a lot of people supporting it year after year,” Casper said. “You might think it would be chaotic, but it actually goes pretty smoothly because everybody knows their role, and people know exactly what to do to pull it off.”
To run the meets, Casper needs to expand his normal staff to about 300 people, most of which are volunteers.
“A lot of these people have been timers and measuring the shot puts and doing whatever for many years,” Casper said. “You see a lot of the same familiar faces coming back every year. It’s really people that like to do it, and they continue to help out year to year”
The ISU events staff and team of volunteers have to worry about custodial tasks, maintenance, security, ticketing and all the hurdles that come with hosting 2,000 or more athletes for a three-day indoor track meet.
“It’s a huge undertaking to be honest with you,” said Casper, “I started here 33 years ago, but I haven’t been involved the whole time. It’s probably been about 25 years that I’ve been involved personally with the games.”
Both events use the same wooden track and set up.
“We don’t have to move everything around in there afterwards,” Casper said. “The athletic department, as with the Simplot Games, sends around a packet to all the athletes so they know what to expect and where to go. The number of participants isn’t the same, but all the logistics and everything is the same, but with fewer participants.”
Casper says that the basic format of the games hasn’t changed all that much in that time.
“They’re still running a 60-meter dash and 200 meters and all that,” Casper said. “The basics of the track meet and the running of it are the same events that have been going on forever.”
The Holt Arena staff regulars, including Casper, are on-hand at the events to help with whatever needs to be taken care of.
“It’s a real large undertaking and it’s not just our staff, it’s all the people that come from the community, so we’re really grateful to all the people that come to help out and come and volunteer their time,” Casper said.