The 2024 trials will be the first ever held in a football stadium.Courtesy of USA Swimming
For more a decade, the country’s top swimmers have traveled to Omaha, Neb., every four years to punch their tickets to the Olympics. In 2024, however, USA Swimming will move its Olympic team trials to Indianapolis, exactly 100 years after the city first hosted the event ahead of the 1924 Paris Games.
The trials are by far the biggest event for the national governing body, and the next edition is expected to offer even greater scale. Indianapolis will hold the tryouts with temporary pools at Lucas Oil Stadium — marking the first time Team USA‘s Olympic swim team will be determined on a soccer field. The city plan beat competing bids from Minneapolis, Omaha and St. Louis.
Indianapolis, which last hosted the event in 2000, was selected because of its history of hosting major sporting events and its centralized location, according to USA Swimming President and CEO Tim Hinchey. . “One thing that’s important to us is that 25% of our members can actually get to Indianapolis in less than eight hours,” Hinchey said. “It’s huge when you consider that our clubs have the capacity to bring so many young boys and girls to come and watch the stars of our sport.”
Early estimates are that the 2024 event will draw a daily crowd of 30,000 to 35,000 fans, which would be nearly double the pre-COVID attendance in Omaha in 2016 and a record for an indoor swim meet. This could provide critical momentum following the final trials in 2021 which were capped at 50% capacity and ultimately handed the NGB a seven-figure loss. The event has always been a profit center.
Moving to Indianapolis will also provide new income opportunities. Topping the list is a Centennial Sponsorship Program, an initiative with Indiana Sports Corp that will seek to partner with local businesses for longer-term commitments around the nine-day Trials. “The very cool story of exactly 100 years between tries is hard to ignore,” said Indiana Sports Corp President Ryan Vaughn. “And it’s about how we can connect people and brands to this event and maybe even expand it to Paris in a really fun and engaging way.”
USA Swimming will bring back its Aqua Zone fan zone and USA Swimming House hospitality space for 2024. In total, Hinchey estimates the move to Indianapolis will help double or triple the event’s revenue, which typically exceeds 3 million. of dollars. The NGB has also partnered with the Indiana Sports Corp to pledge $400,000 to support water accessibility and water safety initiatives in local underserved communities.
Indianapolis has hosted the trials six times. The largest venue for the event in the region to date has been the IUPU-Indianapolis Swim Center, in 1984, 1992, 1996 and 2000. Never has it had such a stage. “We know that every four years the Olympic Trials and the results we’ve had at the Olympics absolutely increase our number of support and participation,” Hinchey said. “So it’s just another chance to do it, and to do it in an NFL stadium is pretty exciting, so we’re excited.”