JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Bob Hayes Invitational will be moving to the University of North Florida this year.
One of the nation's premier track and field events, the invitational had been previously held at Raines High School since the late 1960s.
Bob Hayes Organization Executive Director, and past Bob Hayes winner, Greg Coleman, said anticipated construction at Raines and the need for more space were reasons for the move.
Raines was only able to accommodate between 5,000 to 7,000 fans, UNF's Hodges Stadium will be able to hold at least 14,000 fans.
Coleman, a Raines alum, says the move was necessary for the future of the event and the kids participating.
"There doesn't necessarily mean that there was anything wrong with the home. We grew up in same church, different pew, there was nothing wrong with. Raines being the host for all of those years sometimes you just outgrow where you are and you have to go in order to grow and that's exactly what happened," Coleman said.
Coleman took over as the organization's director a couple years ago after longtime director, James Day, suddenly passed away.
Day, the longtime track coach at Raines, was one of the founders of the invitational that features some of the best track and field athletes in the country.
"We know that Coach Day and Bob Hayes would always say, Greg whatever you do don't forget about the young people it's about the kids who participate in the Bob Hayes track meet giving them hope and inspiration if a young person has hope their future is limitless and that's what we're going to continue to do," Coleman said.
Hayes, a Jacksonville native, was a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist sprinter and went on to have a decorated NFL career with the Cowboys.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Hayes' daughter, Westine Lodge, and grandson, Drew, were at Wednesday's press conference announcing the move to UNF. The announcement was bittersweet, but a necessary decision for the future of the race.
"All of the history, all of the memories that are there at Raines we keep them but we're now going to start new memories a new set because now it's time to take the track meet to a new level," Lodge said.
Coleman added the race will explore moving back to Raines when anticipated construction is completed.
The Bob Hayes Invitational is scheduled for March 2023.