U.S. Swimming Trials See Plunge In Attendance Following Retirement Of Michael Phelps
The USA Swimming Phillips 66 National Championships & World Championship Trials last week in Indianapolis, the first U.S. Championships or trials without retired swimmer Michael Phelps since '98, "drew paltry crowds to the Indiana University Natatorium," according to Philip Hersh of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Swimming attendance without Phelps "depends almost entirely on families of athletes." It "remains an Olympic-year sport to all but its own community of athletes, coaches, officials and parents." Attendance for the "five nights of swim nationals" concluding last Saturday "was 1,191, 2,500, 1,265, 1,522 and 1,230." That is "barely one-third of the attendance at the previous nationals in Indianapolis" in '09, when Phelps swam five events. Phelps' coach Bob Bowman said, "I'm a little disappointed. (Everyone said) this was the golden age of U.S. swimming." Bowman added, "As we get closer to the Olympics, it's better. [U.S. Olympic Gold medal-winner Missy Franklin], I think, will take over that role (as a major draw). She is just beginning it." The '12 Olympic trials, in "a much bigger venue, had average attendance of 11,136 for 15 sessions." USA Swimming Exec Dir Chuck Wielgus said, "There is not a 'pop' at this meet, not an energy. While that certainly concerns us, I'm not worried about it over the long term." Hersh wrote swimming "remains a tough sell for live spectators, who see mainly water splashed by athletes whose faces barely are visible." It is "often impossible to know the order of finish without looking at the scoreboard, even for people sitting right above the finish line" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/30).
SECOND FIDDLE TO OMAHA: In Indianapolis, David Woods reported renovation of the IU Natatorium "could cost nearly" $20M. The "earliest another world team trials could be sited here" is '17. The '16 Olympic Trials "will be held in a temporary pool" in Omaha, as they were in '12 and '08. Indianapolis was "unsuccessful in its bid" for the '16 trials, "proposing Lucas Oil Stadium as the venue." USA Swimming Events & Marketing Dir Dean Ekeren said that there "have been talks about helping to finance Natatorium renovation but that the national governing body has never done anything like that." Indianapolis is a "desirable destination because of experienced organizers, central location and seating capacity (4,700)." Configuration of the facility was "3,500 for these nationals, and the Natatorium remains the nation’s largest permanent aquatics venue" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 6/30).