The 2024 trials will be the first ever held inside a football stadium.Courtesy of USA Swimming
For over a decade, the nation’s top swimmers have traveled to Omaha, Neb., every four years in order to punch their tickets to the Olympic Games. In 2024, however, USA Swimming will move its Olympic Team Trials to Indianapolis, exactly 100 years from when the city first hosted the event ahead of the 1924 Paris Games.
The trials are far and away the national governing body’s biggest event, and the next edition is expected to provide even greater scale. Indianapolis will hold the trials with temporary pools at Lucas Oil Stadium — marking the first time Team USA’s Olympic swim team will be determined on a football field. The city’s plan beat out competing bids from Minneapolis, Omaha and St. Louis.
Indianapolis, which last hosted the event in 2000, was selected thanks to its track record of hosting major sporting events and its centralized location, according to USA Swimming President and CEO Tim Hinchey. “One component that’s important to us is that 25% of our membership can actually drive to Indianapolis in less than eight hours,” said Hinchey. “That’s huge when you think about our clubs having the ability to get as many young boys and girls to come in and witness 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. It could provide critical momentum coming off the last trials in 2021 that were capped at 50% capacity and ultimately saddled the NGB with a seven-figure loss. The event has historically been a profit center.
Relocating to Indianapolis will also provide new revenue opportunities. At the top of the list is a centennial sponsor program, an initiative with the Indiana Sports Corp that will aim to partner with local companies for longer-term engagements around the nine-day trials. “It’s hard to ignore the very cool story of exactly 100 years in between the trials,” said Indiana Sports Corp President Ryan Vaughn. “And it’s about how we can connect people and brands to this event and maybe even extend it all the way to Paris in a really fun and engaging way.”
USA Swimming will bring back its Aqua Zone fan area and USA Swimming House hospitality space for 2024. All told, Hinchey estimates the move to Indianapolis will help double to triple the event’s revenue, which has typically been over $3 million. The NGB has also joined with the Indiana Sports Corp to make a $400,000 commitment to supporting water accessibility and water safety legacy initiatives in underserved local communities.
Indianapolis has hosted the trials six times. The biggest venue to host the event in the area to date has been IUPU-Indianapolis’s swimming 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 numbers for support and participation,” said Hinchey. “So this is just another chance to do it, and to do it at an NFL stadium is pretty exciting, so we’re fired up.”