COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, January 7. USA Swimming today announced new details for the 2012-2013 Arena Grand Prix Series, including $150,000 in prize money. The next stop of the six-meet series will take place January 18-20 in Austin, Texas and will be broadcast on the Universal Sports Network.
As part of USA Swimming's new, eight-year partnership with Arena, the Arena Grand Prix Series will offer swimmers the opportunity to take home prize money for top finishes in all individual Olympic-distance events. In each event, first-place finishers will receive $500, second-place finishers will earn $300 and swimmers in third place will take home $100*. Prize money will be distributed for each meet in the Series, including the Minnesota Grand Prix, which took place in November. In past years, a $20,000 purse was awarded to the overall winner of the entire Series.
“Since its inception, the Grand Prix Series was designed to showcase the best swimming talent in the country,” said Frank Busch, USA Swimming's National Team Director. “We've always envisioned having this type of prize money to strengthen the level of competition at these meets, and with Arena's support, it's become a reality and will help take swimming in the U.S. to the next level.”
“Our partnership with USA Swimming Grand Prix Series opens up new avenues for Arena to support talented swimmers in many ways,” said Tim McCool, Vice President and General Manager of Arena North America. “We are not only committed to helping athletes perform at their best, but to give recognition in their results. The Arena Grand Prix Series is the perfect platform to celebrate swimming at an elite level on an annual basis and we look forward to making this a bigger event for both the athletes and well as the spectators in the years to come”.
Swimming fans across the country will also have the opportunity to watch the action from the next stop of the Arena Grand Prix Series – The Austin Grand Prix. The Universal Sports Network will broadcast the event live on January 19 and 20 from 7-8:30 p.m. ET. Check local listings for channels and times in your area.
The three-day meet in Austin, Texas will take place January 18-20 and is slated to feature a marquee line-up of swimming stars, including Olympic gold medalists Missy Franklin, Tyler Clary and Ricky Berens.
2012-2013 Arena Grand Prix Schedule:
Event Location Date
Minneapolis Grand Prix Minneapolis, Minn. Nov. 9-11, 2012
Austin Grand Prix Austin, Texas Jan. 18-20
Orlando Grand Prix Orlando, Fla. Feb. 14-16
Mesa Grand Prix Mesa, Ariz. April 11-13
Charlotte Ultraswim Grand Prix Charlotte, N.C. May 9-12
Santa Clara Grand Prix Santa Clara, Calif. May 30-June 2
In addition to the broadcast coverage on Universal Sports, USA Swimming will webcast prelims and finals in Austin on www.usaswimming.org. For more information on the Arena Grand Prix Series, visit www.usaswimming.org/grandprix. A leaderboard for the Series will be available online and in Splash Magazine, the official magazine of USA Swimming.
* Swimmers with remaining NCAA eligibility will not be able to accept event prize money.
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Perspective by Jeff Commings
Today's news means the Arena Grand Prix meets will be much more interesting to watch. Professional swimmers will now flock to these meets in an effort to earn a little spending money, and fans will benefit as well.
These meets were little more than an excuse to get away from a weekend of training for most professional swimmers. Now, we could see some exciting racing as swimmers will do what it takes to cash in through the next five meets on the Arena Grand Prix circuit. Athletes who signed up for USA Swimming's Athlete Partnership Plan are required to attend a certain number of Grand Prix meets, and now they might fulfill that obligation with a little more excitement, knowing their reward could be greater than a few throwaway medals.
This announcement coincides with USA Swimming's new partnership with Arena, and the apparel company's branding with the Grand Prix meets. It's great to see Arena stepping up to do more for the sport in the United States than pasting their name in front of a meet title. The cash incentive will bring more professional swimmers to the meet and put more eyes in front of the Arena brand, which will likely be hard to ignore at these meets.
On the downside, the amount of money offered for each race is embarrassing when compared to what's being paid to athletes at the FINA World Cup, which Arena also sponsors. If this is only a first step of bigger paydays, then it's a small step to take.
Feel free to post your thoughts on today's Arena Grand Prix announcement in the comments section below.