PHOENIX, Arizona, April 26. AT 4 p.m. MDT tomorrow, USA Swimming, in collaboration with the United States Olympic Committee, will announce via live webcast the host city for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Representatives from the final three bid cities — San Antonio, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; and St. Louis Missouri — have all stated their cases in a series of Swimming World.TV Morning Swim Show interviews with host Jeff Commings.
So which city should earn the honor? Let's review their arguments…
Omaha: Harold Cliff, the president of the Omaha Sports Commission, argued that success in hosting the 2008 and 2012 Trials will make for the best experience in 2016. There would be no need for drastic changes, only slight modifications to create a more updated look and feel and to “…make a great event even better.”
“We have a very good feel for the flow, and how the athletes can be accommodated,” Cliff said. “We can present the event in a very different manner but still have the intimate atmosphere.”
The Qwest Center has a 14,000 seating area, and is the smallest of the proposed venues. Omaha is also the smallest city bidding to host the 2016 Trials. But Cliff sees city size as a positive, arguing that a lack of competing events means that all of Omaha's media attention will be on USA Swimming.
Evidence of local support is the biggest thing Omaha has going for it. With a 95% return rate of volunteers from 2008 to 2012, the city is definitely behind the event!
St. Louis: Frank Viverito, the president of the St. Louis Sports Commission says that the city's Olympic history is one of the main draws for their hosting the 2016 Olympic Trials.
“Any time we can do an event that connects to that legacy, it makes it a little more special for us.” St. Louis was the first U.S. city to host an Olympic Games (1904).
Viverito says that the Edward Jones Dome, where the pool will be located, is designed just like the Qwest Center in Omaha, but provides the opportunity to grow the event. He argues that since St. Louis is a “big city with a small-town feel” the event will draw larger crowds. Spectators will be walking distance from downtown attractions in-between sessions.
Additionally, the Sports Commission has half million set aside for legacy programs directed towards starting swimming programs geared towards the minority community. “We may be new to the sport of swimming at this level,” Viverito said. “But we have a great regional draw.”
San Antonio: Former USA Swimming vice president George Block and Russ Bookbinder, president of the San Antonio Sports Commission, argue that their large facility and the city's experience hosting major sporting events will be key to drawing in the largest crowds for the 2016 Olympic Trials.
The Alamo Dome has a 21,800 seating capacity. Block says that the time is right for USA Swimming to be confident in it's ability to fill a venue of that size. “We are extremely confident we can fill that many seats,” he says. “It's kind of the golden age of swimming.”
Additionally, Olympians Josh Davis, Jimmy Feigen and Brendan Hansen are all involved in the efforts to bring the Olympic Trials to San Antonio. Using input from swimmers and coaches, the Sports Commission is proposing a full 3-meter depth facility, a warm-up pool behind the seating area and convenient “straight-shot” path for athletes to follow after their races.
“Everything is right here,” Block said about the facility's proximity to hotels, tourist attractions and entertainment venues. He feels that San Antonio's walkability surpasses Omaha and that the city provides more draws for spectators outside of the Olympic Trials event.
As a final selling point, he argues that bringing Trials to San Antonio will attract the city's large Hispanic population to swimming. “It's a very untapped market. The culture is a very much an anti-swimming culture.”
Who do you think should win this bid? All opinions are welcome in the comment section below. And if you have questions for USA Swimming Chief Marketing Officer Matt Farrell about the selection of the Trials city following the live webcast, tweet them to @usa_swimming using the #swimtrials16 hastag for his chat at 4:30 p.m. Mountain time Saturday.