In Oregon, Adidas and Puma take over University Frats for the world championships


The Sigma Chi fraternity brothers had company this spring. A construction crew arrived at work each day with a small armada of drills and power saws. It should be noted that the Sigma Chi brothers are not known around the University of Oregon as morning people.

“It started off a little rough; I’m not going to lie,” said Scott Trempe, 50, the longtime head of Sigma Chi. “It was definitely the boys against the contractors there for a while. Once the boys finally got to grips with what was going on, it worked really well.

For a big event like the World Championships in Athletics, taking place this month in Eugene, Oregon, sneaker and apparel companies typically book a block of rooms in an upscale hotel to house staff. and renting event space to entertain athletes. and customers.

But Eugene isn’t a bustling metropolis with an abundance of lodging options like the host cities of years past. It’s not Berlin, Beijing or Doha, Qatar. It’s a quaint college town of 170,000, leaving businesses scrambling to find available hotel rooms. Others have rented modest homes near campus, turning them into their operational headquarters for the meeting.

Adidas and Puma tried something different: they moved into fraternity houses.

At the Chi Psi lodge, a few blocks from Hayward Field, Puma has made his home, transforming a stately 85-year-old fraternity house into “Puma House,” brimming with a canal-side bistro, a redesigned basketball court, game room and 25 freshly painted bedrooms with Puma-themed bedspreads.

“It was a puzzle,” said Menno Snel, events manager for International Orange, the agency that worked with Puma on the project. “It was not your usual event in Paris, where all the resources were at your disposal.”

At Sigma Chi there is new furniture, a room dedicated to physiotherapy, a back office for the distribution of products, an ice cream bar and a cafe which, on a recent afternoon, served a glassware watermelon gazpacho without foot. (Good luck finding a barrel.) Erriyon Knighton, an 18-year-old American sprinter who won a bronze medal in the 200 meters on Thursday, was relaxing on a couch in the yard. Several other Adidas-sponsored athletes were participating in a game of foosball.

Ethan Cupper, a recent advertising graduate and president of Sigma Chi, recalled the day last winter when he heard that someone wanted to do a lot of work on site in exchange for a two-week stay. in mid-July.

“Wait,” he said, “the Adidas company wants Direct in our fraternity house?

In recent years, Adidas had used Sigma Chi as a home center for various high-profile fixtures at Hayward Field. Prior to these encounters, the company was sprucing things up – a dab of paint here, a little plaster there. But the work was minor and visitors never ventured upstairs into the living quarters.

For the world championships, Adidas spent months planning — and then executing — a massive overhaul of the sprawling building that deserved its own time slot on HGTV.

“We took what we would have spent on hotel rooms and used that instead,” said Spencer Nel, head of global sports marketing for Adidas Running, pointing to the relative opulence that surrounded him. “And that’s what made it so appealing, because we’re going to leave something behind.”

Work at Sigma Chi began at the end of March, around the start of the spring term.

“There were definitely things that needed fixing,” Cupper said, “like holes in the walls.”

Although the upgrades were much appreciated — “It seemed like every week we woke up and something new was happening in the house,” Cupper said — the fraternity brothers endured an occasional rush of nostalgia. One day, they saw the construction crew enter the backyard to remove several strips of artificial grass that the students had purchased on Craigslist and installed themselves.

“It was all of our hard work there,” Cupper said. “But the new grass looks really nice.”

The long process of renovating the fraternity’s 40 rooms began while school was still in session, Nel said, making it a game of chess. The workers started with a few that were vacant. Once these were repaired, a group of brothers moved there so that their rooms could be repaired.

By the end of the school year, many of these renovated rooms were already in various states of disrepair. (A resident — and you know who you are — left a fire extinguisher embedded in one of the walls as if thrown like a javelin.)

Adidas removed all foreign objects, replaced bedroom doors, assembled new beds and upgraded bathrooms. The Wi-Fi network was also revamped, which was a huge plus for the students and one of the reasons they were prepared to put up with so much hassle this spring.

“Some of them are big players, and they were stealing each other’s megabytes,” said Sander Rodenburg, an executive at CIP Marketing, who managed the project.

But there are reminders that this is still Sigma Chi and not the Four Seasons. For starters, Sigma Chi has no central air. Adidas had hoped to remedy the situation with a fleet of air conditioning units, but the building’s electrical circuits could only accommodate nine. For the athletics competition, the air-conditioned halls went to the big shots. Everyone made do with fans on days when temperatures exceeded 90 degrees.

Neighbors, meanwhile, are wowed by the new coat of dark green paint on the exterior of the building.

“They came to thank us,” said Danny Lopez, head of sports marketing at Adidas.

In Chi Psi, Snel arrived this month as several fraternity brothers were in the process of moving.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of your house,” Snel told them.

Puma chose Chi Psi largely, Snel said, because it was in great condition, having already undergone recent renovations. But the project still required months of planning. Chi Psi handed over the keys on July 10, giving Snel and a crew of 20 five days to prepare him before the start of the world championships.

“Hardly any pieces remained intact,” said Patrick Herbst, former treasurer of Chi Psi.

One of the most rigorous parts of the process, Snel said, was a “deep cleaning” of the house that took nearly three days. It was a scramble towards the end, with caterers, movers and sound technicians bustling about. The house was expected to be ready for around 33 guests – Puma staff, coaches, agents and family members – as well as 2,500 Puma-branded frozen treats which were delivered overnight from Los Angeles.

“Please take one,” Snel said. “They are very good.”

At the same time, Puma sought to avoid erasing the Chi Psi from the house. So dozens of annual composite portraits of fellowship remained in place, lining the walls. Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm’s parents stayed in a room down the hall from the framed composite for the 2015-16 class, which features a handsome pup named Kaleo who was in charge of “sorority relations.”

“I think that’s the beauty of it,” Snel said. “We tried to build on the story of the fraternity house and not completely turn it into some sort of sports brand activation.”

As part of its deal with Puma, the fraternity will keep most of the new furniture while enjoying renovations. Herbst, who graduated this spring, said he envies the basketball court.

But some of the changes are most likely temporary. For the world championships, Chi Psi’s upstairs bathroom is now coed, with women-only hours and urinals overflowing with flowers.


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