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Why the CrossFit Games Are Moving to Madison, Wisconsin

After ten years in California, the The Sport of Fitness™ battle royale will ship up to the "Capital of the Midwest" through 2019.

After 10 years in Southern California, CrossFit is finding a new home in the Badger State.

The CrossFit Games will move to Madison, Wisconsin, for 2017, 2018, and 2019, the organization announced on Monday, after posting a national request for proposals that drew interest from hundreds of other locales. At the center of the event will be the Alliant Energy Center, a 164-acre multi-use facility that will play host to the "Fittest on Earth."

So why Madison?

First, it's likely that the Games essentially outgrew their original California home. Since the first Games at "The Ranch" in Aromas, California, 10 years ago, the Games have shuttled between Hermosa Beach (for aquatic events), Marine Corps Camp Pendleton (for trail runs), and its "main" venue, the StubHub Center in Carson. The constant relocation to separate venues—often in the middle of the Games—made for a challenge to the athletes, but it also removed the action from the main venue in Carson and limited fans' access to all the events.

In Madison, though, CrossFit gets everything it needs—aquatic venues, plenty of trails, and a multi-purpose sports venue—in one compact, easily walkable city. CrossFit's announcement video takes pains to mention that Madison, which is sandwiched between two lakes, has over 200 miles of trails and 23,000 acres of water, and that fans will be able to tailgate throughout the entire week of competition right next to the Games themselves.

"It’s going to be big," Dane County executive Joe Parisi told the Wisconsin State Journal. "It fills an unmet need in the community for something that is health-related like this, and participatory like this."

 

Second: Unlike the Games' prior digs—a suburb of Los Angeles, an isolated ranch, a Marine Corps base—Madison is actually a tourist venue in its own right. Thanks to a combination of college sports (the University of Wisconsin–Madison) and even more brutal bloodsports (state politics!), Madison has a hotel and hospitality industry ready-built to handle the Games' influx of athletes and the "fittest crowd on earth." Madison has a famed beer culture, for example, although Southern Californians will point out that San Diego is a craft brew hub in its own right. Also, cheese curds. And if the Games need to expand beyond the Alliant Center, there's always UW; Camp Randall Stadium, where the Badgers play on Saturdays, sits 80,321 people.

"This is a huge feather in our cap," Jamie Patrick, the VP of the Madison Area Sports Commission, told Keely Arthur of WISC-TV (video here). Patrick estimates some 33,000 fans could spend $5.6 million throughout the week. (Beer and cheese curds are paleo, right? Right?!)

Third: In contrast to Los Angeles, Madison is still small enough that the Games will be able to create an outsized footprint in the city. "This will be like Mecca for CrossFitters," Justin Bergh, the Games' general manager, told the Wisconsin State Journal. "We feel like we’ll be able to control that experience in Madison and get a lot of local support from the whole Midwest and the Madison area in particular."

And while we'd be hard-pressed to complain about SoCal weather, August is a little more tolerable in Madison (average high: 79.4°F) than it is in Carson (average high: more than Madison's). Case in point: The 2015 Games edition of Murph, when the sun-baked infield broiled even the best-conditioned athletes.

Watch the official announcement video from CrossFit HQ, featuring highlights of CrossFit superstars like 2016 champions Mat Fraser and Katrin Davidsdottir.

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