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Omaha-area residents, businesses feel U.S. Olympic swim trials' move to Indianapolis 'bittersweet'

Tuesday a sad day for swimming fans who will not witness a fifth swim trials in Omaha
Posted at 6:54 PM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 19:54:22-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It was sad news Tuesday for swimming fans in Nebraska: Omaha will not be host to the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming. Instead, Indianapolis will "get the gold," as USA Swimming announced that the swimming trials will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium. The last four trials were held in Omaha and generated some big money for the local economy, but the event also drew inspiration and awe from spectators like Katherine Anglin.

"It definitely, it pushes you to want to be better, to excel and to become a better swimmer and to aim to be at the trials someday, especially when you're young and your dreams are big," Anglin said.

Anglin drew up swimming for clubs in Omaha, and in 2014, she started coaching for Millard Aquatic Club. Whenever the Olympic trials took place, the club always experienced a "bump" in enrollment numbers.

"They want to be involved, so it's cool to see that kind of event have an effect on the local clubs in the metro area," Anglin said.

Letting another city take reigns of the competition means Anglin is harboring mixed emotions.

"It's bittersweet, we've had it for four years. That's 16 years over the course of time; I will say it would have been awesome to have it again," Anglin said.

Sunni Renner, CEO of DJ's Dugout, admits the loss of the trials also impacts her restaurant chain.

"It definitely doubles our business, of course with the overlap of the CWS, and then you get that extra pop of swim trials again at the beginning of July, it's great for all of us folks downtown and losing that is gonna be sad," Renner said.

Renner is already thinking of tactics to grow their crowds.

"How can we build the crowds at Creighton University for baseball? What a great place, but it doesn't bring in a lot of fans. It would be nice to build those kinds of things. The streetcars coming to Omaha is gonna be huge and having the lack of parking that we have right now," Renner said.

"In 2016, when we had the record-breaking attendance year, it was worth $74 million, to the local economy and even in '21, when we held the delayed 2020 swim trials, it was still worth 35 million dollars to our local community," Visit Omaha Executive Director Deborah Ward said.

Ward is determined to maintain Omaha's position as a host of large sporting events, and confident the community can fill in the gaps.

"This year we have the International Horse Jumping Competition which is here every year, but it's kind of a precursor to the FEI World Cup Event in 2023, that will bring competitors from all across the globe to Omaha next year," Ward said.

But it is seeing greatness unfold — in her familiar sport — that's what others like Anglin will miss the most.

"They've put so much time and effort into every single race. It's been awesome to be able to witness that up close and try to convey some of these things to our swimmers as well as coaches," Anglin said.

In a statement to 3 News Now, the Omaha Sports Commission expressed "disappointment" in the news but is proud of the trials' growth in Omaha.

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