Indianapolis, Indiana ill again bid to host the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2024, making a case to host the event in Lucas Oil Stadium, accoring to the IndyStar. Lucas Oil Stadium was one of a number of large-scale venues, used primarily for football, that was interested in hosting the 2016 Olympic Trials before that event ultimately returned to Omaha and the CenturyLink (now Chi Health) Center for the 3rd-straight edition.
Lucas Oil Stadium’s primary use is as home to the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL. It currently seats 67,000 for football games and is expandable to 70,000 for basketball and other events.
Besides the Colts, the venue also plays host to the Indy Eleven of the minor United Soccer League. The venue has a retractable roof, and in addition to the main stadium space, has 183,000 square feet of exhibit space – crucial to USA Swimming’s Splash Zone area that accompanies the Olympic Trials.
While the 2016 Trials saw essentially an all-sessions sell out of the 18,000 seat Chi Health Center, a 70,000 seat stadium remains too big, likely, for a swim meet still. When considering football stadiums for the last edition, however, the proposal was that USA Swimming would likely drop a large curtain to divide the playing surface in half, with one half being for the competition events and spectator seating, and the other half housing the warmup pool and other athlete support facilities.
The IndyStar says that St. Louis is also making a bid for the 2024 Olympic Trials. St. Louis likewise bid for the 2016 Trials, and the city is also making a bid for a football stadium-hosted event. St. Louis would host in the stadium now known as The Dome at America’s Center, which is the former home of the St. Louis Rams before their move to Los Angeles after the 2015 NFL season. The St. Louis BattleHawks of the XFL played at the stadium in early 2020, though the coronavirus canceled the end of that season and left the league’s future up in the air.
The Dome can seat up to 82,000 people, with just over 67,000 considered ‘full’ for NFL home games.
Both venues would see temporary pools built, much as has been done since 2008 in the Chi Health Center in Omaha.
Indianapolis last hosted the U.S. Olympic Trials at the IU Natatorium on the IUPUI campus in 2000. That facility, which hosts 4,700, is the largest permanent indoor aquatic facility in the US. It’s role in these Olympic Trials, however, would likely be more as an auxiliary training venue to relieve non-competition day strain on the facilities at the main venue.
Indianapolis has hosted the Olympic Trials in swimming 6 times, in addition to hosting many national championships and Olympic Trials across aquatic sports.
Indianapolis Hosting of US Olympic Swimming Trials:
- 1924 – Broad Ripple Pool (women only)
- 1952 – Broad Ripple Pool (women only)
- 1984 – IU Natatorium
- 1992 – IU Natatorium
- 1996 – IU Natatorium
- 2000 – IU Natatorium
Indianapolis also hosted the 2004 World Short Course Swimming Championships inside the city’s basketball arena, then known as the Conseco Fieldhouse. That facility does not have adequate space for two 50-meter pools, and also runs into the potential for conflict with the season of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers in the traditional June timeline of the Olympic Trials.
Besides the larger venue for more ticket sales, either Indianapolis or St. Louis could alleviate some of the strain of housing that has left Omaha bursting at the seems, especially given the US Olympic Swimming Trials’ overlap with the College Baseball World Series.
Downtown Indianapolis has 7,726 hotel rooms, and as a regular host of major events is constantly adding more. Downtown St. Louis at last count had nearly 7,500 rooms as well, with more being built. While Omaha doesn’t publish their numbers, it is substantially less than that.
Further, with the development of home-rental markets like airbnb, the relative size of the Indianapolis and St. Louis metro areas as compared to Omaha opens up even more housing options. While Omaha’s metropolitan area is just under a million, Indianapolis is around 1.5 million and St. Louis is almost 3 million.
Past studies of the value of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials has placed them at around $75 million in economic impact for the Omaha region.