U.S. Olympic Swim Trials will return to Omaha in 2016 - Omaha.com
Published Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 10:35 am
OLYMPICS
U.S. Olympic Swim Trials will return to Omaha in 2016

USA Swimming turned down bigger cities and bigger venues in favor of bringing the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials back to Omaha and the Century­Link Center.

So once again, in 2016, the U.S. swim team for the Summer Olympics will be decided in downtown Omaha.

“It's really nice to win a competition where the competition was extremely strong,” Omaha Sports Commission President Harold Cliff said after the decision was announced Saturday evening. “I think it says a lot for the city.”

USA Swimming Assistant Executive Director Mike Unger said several factors clinched it in Omaha's favor, primarily the setup in the city and at the CenturyLink Center and the relationships that have developed over the past eight years.

“We loved our experience in '08, loved our experience in '12 — and we're really looking forward to doing it again,” Unger said in an interview after the announcement.

Omaha bested finalists San Antonio and St. Louis. The initial field of six had also included Indianapolis, Greensboro, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.

Both San Antonio and St. Louis proposed putting the U.S. Trials in domes, with the potential to seat 20,000 for the eight-day, 15-session event. The Century­Link Center has a 14,000-seat arena.

USA Swimming made its recommendation to Executive Director Chuck Wielgus on April 16 and then to its board of directors on Saturday. The site selection was announced Saturday evening in a live webcast from Colorado Springs, Colo.

PHOTO SHOWCASES
Take a look back at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha.

“The City of Omaha did a great job of coming together and saying 'Yes, we want them again,' ” Unger said. “That's what came forward.”

Some of the Omaha pluses that Unger mentioned:

» The short walk from the warm-up pool to the arena pool, among many athlete conveniences and services that swimmers liked in Omaha.

» Location of the AquaZone fanfest area in the CenturyLink convention center. While separate from the competition pool, it was still under the same roof and offered easy access for fans. Omaha might expand the AquaZone to an indoor-outdoor setup in 2016.

» Easy access to hotels and restaurants downtown. Many of the top swimmers stayed at the Hilton Omaha, which is connected by skywalk to the CenturyLink Center.

» An airport location less than three miles from the CenturyLink Center.

“All of those things sort of added up and put check marks in the Omaha column,” Unger said.

During the announcement webcast, Unger said the three goals for the host site were to run a technically flawless event, put on a great show and have it be financially successful for all involved.

According to Cliff, both Omaha and USA Swimming netted better than $500,000 in profit operating as a joint venture in 2012, when total attendance was a record 167,048.

Omaha had sellout crowds for three nights last year. Unger said one of the goals for 2016 will be to sell out all sessions.

“We did a great job selling tickets in '08 and '12,” he said. “We need to do a better job in '16.”

Cliff said Omaha emphasized new technology in the Century­Link Center during a site visit by USA Swimming in February. The building will be installing a $6 million center-hung high-definition scoreboard next month that Cliff said “may give us a whole different look.”

Omaha already had jazzed up the event in both 2008 and 2012, with a healthy budget spent on presentation. Features such as pyrotechnics, music and water­falls made the event a great spectacle for both swimmers and fans.

“We're encouraged at the prospects of what we can do,” said Cliff, who has served as chief operating officer for the past two U.S. Trials. “We've got a few things we want to try out.”

The U.S. Trials dates have not been set for 2016, but Cliff said previously that the first proposal called for July 4-11. That would separate the Trials some from the College World Series. Last summer the Trials ran June 25-July 2, with a one-night overlap with the CWS.

Roger Dixon, president of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, said Omaha has a “blank canvas” with the CenturyLink Center and surrounding facilities and structures that were only a dream a dozen years ago.

“Let's take it forward to 2013, and we're going against Indianapolis and Jacksonville and St. Louis and San Antonio … and we won,” Dixon said. “That, in itself, justifies the commitment this community made. We're beating major cities in what we do here.”

The 2012 U.S. Trials included a $30 million estimated economic impact for Omaha. The event also included eight straight nights of live NBC television coverage.

Last summer there were hints Omaha might not make another run at the U.S. ­Trials. But Cliff said it all came together after all those involved sat down and reviewed the 2012 meet — and discovered the energy and commitment to put on a first-rate event were still there.

“You don't want to overstay your welcome, so we didn't want to rush into it,” he said. “But the support that we got, across the board, was extremely positive.”

Contact the writer:

402-444-1042, rich.kaipust@owh.com, twitter.com/RKaipustOWH

* * *

>> Video: See a time-lapse of the 2008 Swim Trials pool construction:

Contact the writer: Rich Kaipust

rich.kaipust@owh.com    |   402-444-1042    |  

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and some general assignment tasks, including the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.

Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
Nebraska boy gets his wish: flying like Iron Man
Nebraskan sentenced in 1970 for beating 87-year-old to death up for parole
Plans for new $16M YMCA in Council Bluffs at 'critical juncture'
Recruiting: Huskers land WR Spencer Tears for 2015 class
Mad Chatter: Osborne, Switzer & 28 years of NCAA ‘progress’; Pelini the Mad Man; Tim Miles/Tennessee
Benefit aims to buy $16,000 all-terrain wheelchair for Norfolk hunter
Woodmen request would take nearly $40M in valuation from tax rolls
New treatment offers a less invasive option to repair bulging aortas
5 religious movies to watch again
Thanks to weekly writing sessions, Satchel Grande is well-stocked
Lincoln's Pershing Center announces what might be its final concert
State Patrol begins consolidating dispatch centers
Sadie Murren leaving Huskers for Wayne State
Jon Barker replaces Hayneedle co-founder Doug Nielsen as chief executive
Nancy's Almanac, April 16, 2014: Yes, it's been drier and colder than normal
Body found in Hitchcock County ID'd as missing 18-year-old
Tips, recipes on how to spice up your traditional Easter ham
Breaking Brad: Pothole repair crew gets stuck in a pothole
With fixed AC, Fort Calhoun's nuclear station ends brief shutdown
Arrest made in teen's shooting death at Benson's Gallagher Park
Sleigh Bells eager to make more music
8 things you need to know about your end-of-life care
Geriatrics chat at noon: Get your health questions answered
ON TWITTER »

VIDEO »
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Blog: Dirk's 'Mad Chatter'
Dirk Chatelain offers his thoughts on the latest news from around the sports world, complete with links to the best articles, opinion columns, YouTube videos and more.
Civic Auditorium Timeline
World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel asked readers for their favorite memories of the Civic Auditorium. We combined their submissions with a few key events or moments in the auditorium's history.
CWS: Banner Years
The College World Series historical database, a growing home for historical information about past NCAA baseball championships, which have been played in Omaha since 1950.
Downtown Omaha event map
Discover the area surrounding the CenturyLink Center, TD Ameritrade Park and downtown Omaha -- including restaurants, arts & entertainment venues, hotels and local retail outlets.
Facebook: Tom Shatel's page
Get Tom Shatel's sports columns delivered straight to your Facebook feed.
Follow Tom Shatel on Twitter
Get instant analysis and commentary from World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel on Twitter.
Nebraska high school basketball's greatest night
Four elite teams. Two buzzer-beaters. One packed house. On March 11, 1989, the stars aligned and produced the best night in Nebraska high school basketball history.
Shatel's blog
Check out the latest from World-Herald sports columnist Tom Shatel.
Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports
Get World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel's book "Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports."
Super Bowl: Through the years
The Super Bowl is a yearly media madhouse. See how The World-Herald sports section's front pages portrayed each of the Super Bowl victories won by those players celebrated in our Mt. Rushmore of Super Bowl QBs.
Talk sports with World-Herald reporters
World-Herald reporters log on to talk about the latest news surrounding the Huskers, Jays, Mavericks, high schools sports and more. Check out the upcoming chat schedule or replay the latest discussions with the fans.
The disappearance of small-town football
Friday night lights across rural Nebraska are going dark. But one town, in its last season of gridiron independence, proved that school spirit is stronger than ever.
The Nebraska 100
In an historic 2005 series, The World-Herald selected the state’s all-time top 100 athletes. In a new web exclusive, see the digitized collection for the first time.
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »