COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, January 14. USA Swimming, in collaboration with the United States Olympic Committee, today announced the cities that have submitted official bids to host the 2016 Olympic Team Trials — Swimming. A total of six cities will be reviewed as the potential site for the biggest swimming event in the country that will select the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swim Team.
The cities in contention are:
* Greensboro, N.C.
* Indianapolis, Ind.
* Jacksonville, Fla.
* Omaha, Neb.
* St. Louis, Mo.
* San Antonio, Texas
USA Swimming is coming off a year in which it saw its most successful Trials event in history. The 2012 Olympic Swim Trials, held in Omaha, Neb., saw over 164,000 fans in attendance and the eight-days of competition were broadcast LIVE on NBC television every night.
The bid city evaluation period will run through the end of April and will include site visits to select finalist locations. An internal evaluation team from USA Swimming, along with an outside member of the USA Swimming board, will visit each location and select finalists from the group. In addition to reviewing the bids and making site visits, this team will ask follow-up questions of each city and evaluate all information and responses before ultimately making a recommendation to USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, the USA Swimming Board of Directors and the USOC.
“We are thrilled to begin this process and are excited to see what these cities have to offer,” said Mike Unger, USA Swimming Assistant Executive Director. “The Olympic Trials is the marquee swimming event in the U.S. and has grown into an amazing sports event. We are truly excited to continue to enhance the event and make it even more spectacular in 2016.”
Since 2004, USA Swimming has consistently expanded the reach of the Olympic Swim Trials. Attendance numbers have soared and the Aqua Zone, a fan and sponsor experience area, has grown to bring swimming to a wider audience.
The 2004 Olympic Trials in Long Beach, Calif., marked the first time the Olympic Trials were held in an outdoor venue with temporary pools. In 2008 and 2012, the Trials moved to Omaha, Neb., where two temporary pools were built inside the CenturyLink Center Omaha.
Of the bid cities, only two have previously hosted the event — Indianapolis and Omaha. Indianapolis hosted Trials in 1952 (women only), 1984, 1992, 1996 and 2000, while Omaha played host to the event in 2008 and 2012.
A formal selection announcement is expected to be made following the USA Swimming Board Meeting at the end of April.
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Perspective by Jeff Commings
Picking the city that will host the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials is not going to be easy. I would imagine the team of people that are tasked to travel to each of the six bid cities and weigh the pros and cons will not be able to decide quickly. The scale may be smaller, but I imagine this to be as difficult as voting on the city that hosts the Olympics. If you pick the wrong one, the meet could be a disaster.
Below, I weigh the potential pros and cons of each bid city hosting the Olympic Trials, in alphabetical order:
Pros: The city plans to host the event in an arena adjacent to the Greensboro Aquatic Center, which would potentially give athletes two long course pools for warm-up and training purposes. One could be built in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex for athletes swimming that day, and the aquatic center for those just needing a place to keep loose on their off-days. This would alleviate any potential overcrowding that was experienced at the 2012 meet. For better or worse, the aquatic center hosted the reality competition show “Stars in Danger: The High Dive,” and the presentation was superb.
Cons: Putting the meet on the East Coast limits the number of spectators who might attend. It would be expensive for West Coast relatives to fly all the way to the other side of the country. You can fly directly to Greensboro, but not on every major airline, and likely for a hefty fee. An alternative is Charlotte, about 100 miles away.
Pros: The city knows swimming, having hosted five Olympic Trials meets and more NCAA championships than can be counted on fingers and toes. This familiarity with the sport would make the city more agreeable to having hundreds of chlorinated swimmers roaming the city. And, Indianapolis is a major airline destination. Flights should be easy to arrange.
Cons: Unlike Greensboro, Indianapolis is hurt by the fact that the Lucas Oil Stadium, the likely site for Trials, is three miles away from the IUPUI Natatorium, which was the last non-arena style location for Trials and could be a great training site. You might think that's a short trip to shuttle swimmers back and forth, but only if teams bring enough drivers to handle the transporting.
Pros: The city is small, which makes it easy to get around.
Cons: Unfortunately, Jacksonville's airport is not a major hub, and that could affect flight prices. Jacksonville has an adequate training facility at the Bolles School, but that's 8 miles from the proposed meet site, the Veterans Memorial Arena. And, like Greensboro, the city is on the East Coast, and that could alienate the West Coasters anxious to come to the meet.
Pros: They've done it twice before. And the bid organizers have a major player on their side: Mutual of Omaha, which is a major sponsor of USA Swimming and a very likely reason Trials moved to Omaha in the first place.
Cons: Not many. Being smack-dab in the center of the country helps its chances greatly. The only setback is the College World Series. Scheduling the meet in a different week from the big baseball tournament would ease congestion around the CenturyLink Center, which is across the street from the stadium hosting the College World Series.
St. Louis, Missouri
Pros: It's my hometown, so I'm a bit partial here. Like Omaha, the city is in a great place geographically, and would be easier to get to than Omaha in terms of airline flights. The Edward Jones Dome seems like the best place to host Trials, and the downtown area has blossomed recently, with plenty of hotels in walking distance.
Cons: Baseball. The Edward Jones Dome seems like the best place to host Trials, and it's a few blocks from Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals will be in the thick of baseball season. Having mild-mannered swimmers mingling with raucous baseball fans could get ugly.
Pros: Texans love sporting events, and citizens of the second-most populous state in the Union could do their duty and fill the seats. Though located in southern Texas, the location is still prime in terms of getting fans from every corner of the country to attend.
Cons: None to speak of. But bid organizers will have to put a lot of razzle dazzle into their presentations to make it stand out. They will likely have one of the most-loved Olympians in their corner: hometown hero and 1996 gold medalist Josh Davis. Not to mention that another hometown hero could be a part of the 2016 team: Jimmy Feigen.
Strong contenders: Indianapolis, Omaha, St. Louis
Long shots: Greensboro, Jacksonville, San Antonio