Houston, Texas is mulling over a last-minute bid for the 2018 World Championships, USA Swimming informed its board of directors in a memo on Wednesday. If successful, this would be the first FINA World Championship in the United States since the 2004 edition of the meet held in Indianapolis.
This inter-Olympic event is the more lightly-attended of the two World Championship meets (short course, as compared to long course), but in these non-Olympic years it usually receives significantly more participation and attention.
Houston had been considering a run at the 2018 championships, but pulled out because the city’s largest indoor basketball arena, the Toyota Center, would have had a big conflict both with Houston Rockets basketball and Houston Aeros minor league hockey.
The arena sits between 17,000 and 20,000 fans, depending on the configuration, which is usually sufficient for a meet of this level (though, in a major city like Houston, who knows what the demand will be).
At the time of bidding for 2016, a representative from the City of Houston told us that the timing of the meet (December) would have made it nearly impossible to interfere with the middle of the NBA season. Other basketball arenas are used for alternative events mid-year (Chicago takes a famous road-trip every year while the circus is in town), but the assembly and disassembly time of a pool could be significantly loner, unless organizers come up with a quicker set-up/tear-down method than those currently used. The NBA season usually begins at the end of October, and City of Houston representatives indicated that the feedback they received was that such an early date for this meet wouldn’t be possible.
While that’s especially true in an Olympic year, in a non-Olympic year there is much more flexibility in the FINA schedule, so it’s possible that they would consider an early-October meet date. A spokesperson for the city’s As of now, “no determination has been made on whether a bid will be submitted” according to the memo, but the decision will have to be made quickly: FINA needs all bid materials by February 11th in order to make the final decision at their Buereau meeting in Barcelona on February 22nd and 23rd.
FINA had previously named three finalists to host the 2016/2018 World Championships: Windsor (CAN)/Detroit (USA), winners of the 2016 bid already; Hong Kong, China, and the UAE, hosts of the 2010 event.
Houston has pumped a lot of money in the past decade into a revitalization of the East side of their downtown (which is relatively small giving the proportions of the city) and have brought several major sporting events to the area. That includes the 2006 and 2013 NBA All-Star Games, the 2004 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, the 2011 National Senior Games, and the 2014 Transplant Games of America