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CHI Health Center transforming to host Olympic Swim Trials

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 11:51 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Olympic Swim Trial transformation is underway at CHI Health Center. For the next two weeks, crews will be hard at work constructing pools for the athletes.

“This is quite literally the fastest it’s done in the world,” John Ireland, a representative with Myrtha Pools, said. “We’ve got around 80 technicians from half a dozen countries supporting the Omaha Sports Commission, USA Swimming to bring this amazing event to Omaha.”

Myrtha Pools has been a partner for all four Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha.

Over the course of 14 days, 20 workers with Myrtha Pools will put in 16-hour shifts building the pools Olympic hopefuls will compete in.

Thanks to MECA, their work got started a little early.

“We’re going to build two 50 meter pools in 14 days from start to finish, so come June 2nd this arena will be a natatorium,” Ireland said.

Rows of chairs have already been removed to get the space ready, the components for the pools traveled 5,000 miles from Castiglione, Italy to Omaha.

This won’t be like any Olympic Swim Trial you’ve seen before, pandemic precautions forced the Omaha Sports Commission to adapt.

“We actually split up the trials into two waves, pun intended. June 4th through 7th will be Wave 1 and June 13th through the 20th will be Wave 2,” Josh Todd, the executive director of the Omaha Sports Commission said. “So we have a little break in between. And really, it’s the same amount of swimmers, it’s just split up into two different weeks for a safer, better event.”

The arena won’t be filled like it was in 2016, there will be reduced capacity.

But Todd still expects the trials to be a big boost for the Omaha economy.

“We’re still going to fill 8,000 people in here, hopefully, every night. Tickets are still on sale. But the economic impact still going to be north of 50, 60 million dollars, which is great especially coming off the year we came off of,” Todd said.

As for the MECA team rebounding off of an unusually slow 2020, they’re ready to welcome back sports fanatics this summer whether it’s for the swim trial or the college world series.

“Each of these events are going to look a little different than they have in years past, but I think we are committed to making sure that the energy stays the same,” Kristyna Engdahl, a spokesperson with MECA said. “So you can see it’s already high energy in here with all of the construction happening, that’s going to continue into next month when we have the swim trials back in the building.”

Construction on this first pool should wrap up in a couple of days and be ready for water on May 26th with the help of the Omaha Fire Department.

More than 1,400 swimmers have qualified for the trials, they’re coming from all 50 states and their ages range from 13 to 39.

The top two finishers in each race will make the U.S. Olympic team heading to Tokyo.

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