College baseball players always have the goal of making it to Omaha for the College World Series. It's been that way since 1950. Now, young swimmers are doing the same, circling the calendar for the 2016 Olympic Swimming Trials that will be held at the CenturyLink Center for a third-straight time.
Swim fans turned out in record numbers for the last two Olympic Swim Trials. It's not just about the fan experience. This got high marks again from the swimmers, who stay across the street from the CenturyLink at the Hilton, making the short walk to where the main pool and warm-up pool are close to one other. In some past trials, athletes would swim in the warm-up pool and have to take a bus to the event pool.
"I was still pregnant with him at the time." Jenny Hemmer remembers last year's trials well. Zeke hadn't yet been born. “It was pretty exciting, there was a lot of excitement in the crowd." Her 3-year-old daughter Aubrey will be 6 when Team USA returns in 2016. “She'll go next time."
Swimming is at an all-time high in this country right now. Friday, the Omaha Sports Commission and USA Swimming signed the deal officially bringing the Swim Trials back to Omaha. “It's now a standard for people to say ‘I made it to Omaha.’ That is something our young athletes are striving for right now,” said USA Swimming’s Mike Unger.
Omaha has shattered attendance marks the last two times here. “I think our swimming community, they know what to expect in Omaha and they're looking forward to coming back in 2016,” added Unger.
For the city, it's about image and impact with tens of millions of dollars pumped into the local economy and Omaha is now synonymous with Olympic swimming. “It's something we can continue to tell the world that we're one of America's great cities," said David Brown with the Omaha Chamber of Commerce.