OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha has been home to the U.S. Olympic swimming trials since 2008 — routinely welcoming the economy-boosting athletic event every four years, with the exception of the one-year COVID-19 postponement of the 2020 trials to 2021.
But now that may change, as another site finalist, Indianapolis, has facilities capable of containing an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 fans in a Final Four-esque layout at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis was host of the 2021 NCAA men's basketball championships and would replace the hardwood for 50-meter temporary pools, the same way that Omaha has placed three temporary pools in the CHI Health Center when it has been host in the fan. However, the CHI Health Center has just half of the maximum fan capacity at 17,560.
Though site finalists still include both cities, as well as St. Louis and Minneapolis, the Indianapolis Star is reporting that a news conference will be held Tuesday in Indianapolis with the expectation that Indianapolis will clinch the bid to host the 2024 trials. However, the city's bid for the 2022 FINA World Championships for aquatic sports, was previously rejected, with scheduling conflicts at other area hospitality businesses cited as a factor.
As expected, the U.S. Olympic swimming trials have been an economy booster for Omaha, and losing the bid wouldn't just be a sting to swimmers. The economic impact from the 2016 trials was $74 million, while the 2020 trials were forecast to bring $100 million before the pandemic postponement to 2021. The 2021 U.S. Olympic trials were divided into two separate installations of competition, or "waves," and capped at 50% crowd capacity to reduce COVID transmission resulting in a $34.5 million generated, per the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Current City of Omaha Councilmember Brinker Harding was quoted in a 3 News Now article in February 2020 that raised the point that national television exposure can't be quantified in dollars, that "when you're on national TV prime time for seven nights a week, it's tremendous."
Sunday's Indy Star article did not detail why Tuesday's press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium would indicate the switch of the swimming trials from the Cornhusker state to the Hoosier state, but dollar signs have been in the eyes of the Indiana sports community since at least June of 2021, when a different article mentioned Indianapolis's central location to hospitality amenities and top-rated airports and facilities before adding that "Indiana is more of a swimming state than Nebraska, Minnesota or Missouri."