SAN ANTONIO, Texas, October 8. IT’S been almost six months since San Antonio lost the bid to host the biggest swimming meet in the United States, but George Block is still nursing the wound of not getting the chance to have the 2016 Olympic Trials in his hometown.
Shortly after a press conference announcing that San Antonio is hosting three national meets in 2015, Block was asked if those major gets took the sting out of losing Olympic Trials.
“No, not at all,” the renowned coach said. “It was a painful loss for the whole community, but it was also a great experience for the whole community because we put all those resources (not used for Trials) into other things we’re doing.”
That includes other major sporting events such as a Bowl Championship Series college football game in the Alamodome in December. Block, who is the chairman of San Antonio Sports, said the Alamodome will get a major refurbishment this year with the funds that was going to go toward retrofitting it for the Olympic Trials.
Though the Olympic Trials won’t be coming to San Antonio, swimming was not pushed into a corner, as evidenced by the acquisition of USA Swimming’s summer nationals and junior nationals for 2015, as well as the 2015 spring U.S. Masters Swimming nationals. The culmination of a 10-year dream is coming to fruition with the creation of the outdoor competition pool at the Northside Swim Center, putting the city on a short list of places with two 50-meter pools at one site. An indoor 50-meter pool has been in place since 2006.
That was the draw to getting the three meets, Block said. Two 50-meter competition pools allows meet organizers to run the competition in both pools concurrently and reduce the meet timeline, similar to what was done at the 2011 nationals and junior nationals at Stanford University.
“This way, we can get people out of (prelims) by noon each day,” Block said. That is especially true for Masters nationals, which tend to run its timed finals races for more than eight hours daily in one pool.
It’s the future design plan for national championships, Block said.
“This can change the paradigm of how USA Swimming looks at (pool) space,” he said. “This is going to make other people think we need two 50-meter pools to run things well. In eight or 10 years, if you’re not like (the Northside Swim Center), you’re not in the rotation (for hosting nationals).”
The first major meets in the new outdoor pool at the Northside Swim Center will be the short course Texas Age Group championships, the long course zone championships and a USA Swimming sectional meet next year. These meets typically feature hundreds of swimmers, coaches and parents and will show off the spacious deck design that USA Swimming helped engineer along with the pool’s architects.
“There’s enough deck space to land a plane,” Block said.
Block already has an aim on the long-term benefits of adding the outdoor pool to Northside. He’s hoping the three major meets in 2015 will create a city-wide interest in swimming, especially among inner-city children.
“We want 2015 to be the Year of Swimming in San Antonio,” Block said. “These meets could also be a platform for (USA Swimming’s) Make-A-Splash to … upgrade our inner-city programs. We want use the suburban success we’re having to focus on what we need to do in the urban community.”
And as far as competitive swimming goes, the national championships in 2015 are just the first of many brass rings San Antonio is looking to grab in the coming years. Not only are the world championship trials, presumably in 2017 or 2019, on the radar, but Block says he wants San Antonio to host the Pan Pacific championships.
“If we can convince them to hold Pan Pacs away from the coast, we think San Antonio would be the best place for it.”