The U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials conclude tonight, and in the first six days of the eight-day event, 136,297 fans "have packed the CenturyLink Center, putting the event on pace to surpass the overall attendance of the record-breaking 2008 Trials," according to Erin Golden of the OMAHA WORLD-HERALD. The '08 Trials "drew 160,063 and smashed by more than 50,000 the Trials' attendance record set in Long Beach, Calif., in 2004." Competitors "took to the water for Friday evening's finals in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 14,000 people." Saturday morning's preliminaries "sold out, too -- a particularly notable crowd, given that attendance for the morning sessions had topped 10,000 only one time, on the first day of the 2008 event." Organizers said that it seems more people "could be getting interested as the Trials roll on, particularly because of some of the big names making headlines across the country." Ryan Lochte's early victory over Michael Phelps "got even people who aren't swimming fans talking." Bailey Lauerman Exec VP/PR Doug Parrott, whose company is handling PR for event operator Omaha Sports Commission, said, "The fact that it's live on NBC every night is getting people to realize maybe they better come down and see a night of this." Omaha Sports Commission President Harold Cliff said that the weekend "looked to be the time that walk-up ticket sales could help push the numbers even higher" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 7/1).
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: In Omaha, Tom Shatel wrote, "It's been a terrific week, better than 2008, the best Swim Trials in memory." It will "leave a high expectation to meet, or beat, in 2016, for anybody who wants to give it a go." USA Swimming Exec Dir Chuck Wielgus said that USA Swim "wants to open the bid process." Cliff "is noncommittal, also." Shatel noted it is "too early to say whether Omaha would host this extremely cool event a third straight time, in the summer of 2016." Shatel wrote, "The hunch here is, both sides will want to take a break and look around in 2016 -- with the understanding that it's so good here that it has to come back, possibly in eight years" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 7/1).