Caitlin Clark Will Play Games Just 13 Minutes Away From Olympic Trials. What Could That Mean?

Note: Opinions in this article don’t reflect the views of SwimSwam as a whole.

From expensive ticket prices to lofty viewership goals, there’s been a lot of conversation surrounding the marketability of the upcoming 2024 U.S. Olympic swimming trials, which will be an unprecedented one. After the trials were held at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska in 2008, 2012 and 2016, trials will be returning to Indianapolis, Indiana for the first time since 2000. But this time around, the competition will take place in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts — raising worries of empty stands due to a larger-than-normal venue.

Right now, a lot is up in the air regarding trials. But there’s another potentially positive factor that isn’t being talked about enough: the biggest American swim meet in three years will be happening just minutes away from one of the biggest sports draws in America right now. And that sports draw in question is Caitlin Clark.

Now you may ask: “Yanyan, why does this matter? Is this your bi-annual attempt to somehow make a swimming article about Clark?” But please, just hear me out right now.

On Monday night, Clark was drafted by the Indiana Fever as the no. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, a move that had been highly anticipated for months now. Without even setting foot in Indianapolis, her future pro career is already generating massive interest, as Fever tickets on SeatGeek increased 136% in price from last season and 36 out of their 40 games are set to be broadcasted on national TV after only one was shown last year. On Sunday, she made an appearance on Saturday Night Live, showcasing her ever-growing publicity in the mainstream media. And if she translates her success from the NCAA level to the big leagues, expect a good portion of the 18.9 million viewers who watched her take on South Carolina in the 2024 NCAA Championship game watch her in the WNBA.

Olympic trials run from Jun. 15 to 23, a window where the Fever are playing two home games — one Jun. 16 against the Chicago Sky and on Jun. 19 against Washington Mystics. The Fever play in Gainbridge Fieldhouse, which is approximately a 13-minute walk drive from Lucas Oil Stadium. And if the Indiana Pacers aren’t making a deep run in the NBA playoffs, the Fever will be the only conflicting sports attraction happening at the same time as Olympic trials.

For context: the Olympic trials has not been held this close to a major professional sports team’s arena since 1992, when trials were held in Indianapolis and a Reggie Miller-led Pacers had a home game on the last day of the meet (though they had three road games across the first six days of the meet). More recently, trials has taken place in the same city as the Men’s College World Series. The CHI Health Center was just across the street from the Charles Schwab Field, where baseball games were held. With the attendances of both trials and the MCWS consisting of primarily traveling fans, hotel space was very limited in Omaha. Another impact of the two competitions overlapping was parking lots that got crowded toward the end of the day. Additionally, since the final game of the 2016 MCWS got delayed due to weather, attendees of a select prelims session at trials got free tickets to the rescheduled baseball game.

The Fever are likely not going to cause the same travel-related logistical issues that the MCWS caused because of a more local fan base. But assuming that the hype around her is still strong one month into the WNBA season, Clark will likely be the biggest athlete name in recent history to be actively competing in close proximity to the Olympic trials. And that, in my opinion, will be amazing publicity for both the Fever and USA Swimming.

It’s ironic that a WNBA team and USA Swimming could mutually benefit each other, considering that the WNBA is a league that has historically struggled with attendance and TV ratings itself. In fact, the last five Olympic trials averaged considerably better ratings than the 2023 WNBA finals that averaged 728,000 viewers. There are several active swimmers such as Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky who entered the national spotlight well before Clark did, and have an arguably bigger global profile than her (and any other WNBA player, probably) due to their success at the Olympics. But with Clark seeing an exponential rise in popularity over the last two years, mentioning her in the same sentence as high-profile American swimmers just seems like the perfect solution.

If people are willing to pay higher prices to watch Fever games, will they also want to go out of their way to watch Olympic gold medalists competing in a unique, culturally iconic venue as well? This goes the other way too – will people in Indy for trials take time out of their day to support the WNBA if it meant getting to watch a rising superstar?

Some of the building blocks have already been put place. Michael Phelps and USA Swimming have already promoted Clark on their social media accounts, after Clark revealed that her iPhone screensaver was a photo of Phelps going head-to-head with South Africa’s Chad Le Clos at the 2016 Olympics. Additionally, Indy Sports Corp tells SwimSwam that there’s an effort being made to involve all the Indianapolis pro sports teams in promoting trials, which could *possibly* highlight the likes of Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson, Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton, and reigning WNBA rookie of the year Aliyah Boston (who will likely be Clark’s partner-in-crime this upcoming WNBA season, and could get similar levels of attention as her if the media expanded beyond their one-star tunnel vision coverage).

If there’s one thing that people dig, it’s crossovers that only happen once-in-a-blue moon. Imagine the buzz that Indianapolis could create if it was known that Ledecky and Clark would be competing at the same time, just 13 minutes away from each other, in the same city. Imagine the idea of the Paris 2024 Olympic team being selected while a rising team is taking women’s professional basketball to new heights. Imagine any of Indianapolis’ pro athletes making a public appearance at trials, endorsing the sport of swimming as a whole.

It’s always fascinating to see worlds colliding, and USA Swimming has so many chances to make it happen — how awesome would it be to draw more attention to the rising swimmers who will likely become household names (at least for the time being) after the Paris games?

Indianapolis, you have a golden opportunity this summer. Do not waste it.

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Batting .300 in Swamming
1 month ago

No mention of USMS nationals also going on at the same time in Indianapolis ?

ClevelandsFinest
1 month ago

More importantly, how will this affect LeBron’s legacy?

swimster
1 month ago

but Trials is taking over downtown so there may be some confused CC fans.

Australia Kings
1 month ago

Isn’t she a Phelps fan? She could be his guest if he is commentating again.

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
1 month ago

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Quite frankly, I would rather read an article about Alex Shackell and her chances qualifying in the W 200 FR and/or W 200 FL at the 2024 USA Swimming Olympic Team Trials.

Angello J Malefakis
1 month ago

With the US Olympic Trials happening in Indianapolis at Lucas Field it is up to USA Swimming to make the seats AFFORDABLE like 5/10 dollars to fill the seats. Let the clubs come and see the swimmers USA Swimming. Stop being cheap skates. The US Olympic Trials are for everyone. Not the fat cat’s who sit and watch and make for a boring competition.

Octavio Gupta
1 month ago

Nah

Awsi Dooger
1 month ago

Caitlin Clark fans are exponentially more likely to rapid fire post on social media than walk 13 minutes to a swimming meet. That’s the reality. They want to be part of a, “Me too!,” phenomena, even if I suspect it will be shorter lived than current projections.

BTW, the 13 minutes needs to be tested. YanYan can begin the walk just as Ledecky starts the 1500. In theory she should see the final few laps, depending on entrance hassle.

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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