Six cities have been named as finalists by USA Swimming to host the 2016 Olympic Trials. After two-straight events were held (magnificently) in Omaha, Nebraska, the bidding has been opened up this year, though Omaha will once again be in the running to bring it back to the state of Nebraska.
The 6 contenders are below:
* Greensboro, N.C.
* Indianapolis, Ind.
* Jacksonville, Fla.
* Omaha, Neb.
* St. Louis, Mo.
* San Antonio, Texas
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.”
Interestingly, all of the hosting bids are in the Central and Eastern time zones, despite so many of the country’s major swimming hubs being in the West in California. Also not among the finalists are Louisville, who had previously considered a bid and who I thought would’ve made a great host. The 6 finalists are among 16 cities believed to show preliminary interest.
Quick hits on the bid cities, with more thorough analysis to come in the next few weeks:
Indianapolis, Indiana – Discussion has been had about holding it in Lucas Oil Stadium, the 60,000 + seat home of the Indianapolis Colts. The prospect is intriguing, but could be overkill. Indy has a lot of experience hosting big meets though, including this summer’s World Championship Trials as well as both of the 2013 NCAA Championship meets.
Greensboro, N.C. - This might have been what developers used to convince the city of Greensboro to build the beautiful new Greensboro Aquatics Center, something many locals weren’t happy about. That pool isn’t big enough to hold the meet, but the Greensboro Coliseum, in the same complex, certainly is, and that’s where this bid is for.
Jacksonville, Florida – Veteran’s Memorial Arena is the likely target here. It feels very similar to the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, with one small exception: it’s about 8,000 seats smaller. With most finals sessions jam-packed in Omaha, hard to see the meet downsized this much in 2016, even after Phelps.
St. Louis, Missouri – The relative newcomer in this process, St. Louis has been named a finalist. The Edward Jones Dome, home of the St. Louis Rams, seats 60,000 plus and has previously hosted an NCAA basketball Final 4 (which would take up a similarly-small footprint as a pool would). That makes a second bid proposing use of a football stadium. (There is also a hockey arena in St. Louis, but that will be tied up by the St. Louis Blues in June).
San Antonio, Texas – This is a really interesting bid. San Antonio is a huge city that has built an industry around hosting other peoples’ sports teams. They are a frequent NCAA basketball tournament host, despite never having a major contender. They host a college football game every year despite not having their own NFL team and only recently getting a Division I college football team. You know they’d put on a good show, and they’re currently building a huge, outdoor facility that they expect to be able to host national level events in, so swimming is their next target.
Omaha, Nebraska – The sentimental favorite. Host of the last two. The veterans. Rocky IV. Been through many battles, but keeps coming back for more. Omaha has a great downtown close to the CenturyLink Center, won’t bring too many surprises, and we know they can put on a show. There is fatigue in some corners of the swimming community, though, who would love a change of scenery.