On the same day as official invites went out, tickets for the 2018 Men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships have already sold out.
The tickets actually go on sell months before invites are sent out, and teams get the first crack – allowed to request up to 40 for each session. The Minneapolis Aquatic Center, which seats 1,346 permanently off-deck, in addition to 1,200 in temporary bleachers on deck. For NCAAs, only the off-deck seating is sold, and those tickets have already sold out.
While the natatorium is small as compared to the country’s biggest permanent facility, the Indiana University Natatorium that seats 4,700 spectators (but never fills up anymore), it is fairly large relative to most in the country. The King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way Washington, built for the Goodwill Games but without a collegiate tenant, hosts 2,500. When the meet was there a few years back, it didn’t fill up, either.
Austin’s Texas Swim Center, which has the advantage of keeping more seating close tot he competition course because its diving well isn’t end-to-end with its competition pools, seats 1,800 spectators off-deck in arm chairs. The Texas Swim Center usually draws full crowds, especially with the added draw of the city of Austin, which has long been popular among swimmers.
Texas A&M’s natatorium, which hosted the 2009 men’s and women’s NCAA Championships, seats only 1,100 off-deck, fewer than Minneapolis. Ohio State’s McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, which will host women’s NCAAs this year, has seating for 1,400 fans – about the same as Minneapolis. Tickets for that meet have not yet been sold out (and can be purchased here).
Teams were able to make their ticket requests in January. Between them, and early-purchasers (frequently alumni and fans of programs that know they’ll send lots of swimmers), tickets sold out some time in February (we don’t know the exact date).
This is at the same time exciting and frustrating for swim fans. The excitement comes from the fact that more fans are paying for tickets to go to the meets in person. The frustration comes from the fact that more fans could be discouraged by not being able to attend, especially this year where the meet is expected to be one of the most competitive championships in years for the team title.
Because it’s challenging to support 2000-seat indoor natatoriums around the country, if NCAA Championship meets continue to sell-out this far in advance, swimming could shift to a tighter rotation among the 3 aforementioned pools, though that could also be a blow to the schools that build 1,000+seat natatoriums with the expectation of being in the hosting rotation.
What Minnesota lacks in size, it makes up for with a key feature – it has spectator seating on both sides of the competition pool, creating a noise-tunnel. Very few pools in the country of the same size (Indy is one) can boast the same effect.
Don’t give up total hope of getting tickets – in the past, even with sold-out meets, standing room only tickets have been made available on the day of the events.