Having a two-part meet with a smaller number of available seats hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for the best swimming competition on American soil.
Ticket sales for both Wave I and Wave II of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials are off to a fast start after the revised formats and seating plans were unveiled earlier this year.
Omaha Sports Commission president Josh Todd said Monday that sales reports indicate interest remains strong despite the trials being postponed one year because of the pandemic.
After a couple weeks of presale offers to those who had purchased tickets for the 2020 event, sales were opened to the general public last week for the four-day Wave I meet and the June 13-20 Wave II competition at CHI Health Center.
The Wave II meet will feature at least 43 competitors in each event who are vying for berths on the U.S. team that will compete at the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23.
Wave I will run from June 4-7, with the top two finishers in each event earning a lane in the prelims of the Wave II event. Approximately 800 swimmers already have qualified for the Wave I competition that is using the original 2020 Trials standards as its benchmark.
The Wave II time standard in each event was set as the 41st seeded time as of January 2021. Athletes who have met or bettered that time will automatically advance to Wave II of the trials.
These tougher time standards also factored in a possible modest growth to 50-60 athletes per event in the four months leading into the Olympic Trials. The final day for swimmers to post a qualifying time for both meets is May 30.
This is the first time qualifiers have been divided into two groups, which became necessary to keep swimmers, coaches, volunteers and fans as safe as possible from pandemic-related concerns.
Todd said close to 8,000 seats per session are available each of the eight days of the Wave II event. As of Monday, 58% of the seats have been sold for each of the 15 Wave II sessions.
“COVID has created a last-minute world in our industry,” Todd said. “Trends nationally still show a little bit of hesitancy about making plans until closer to the event. The caliber of competition in Wave II is still appealing. Between the two meets, the amount of swimmers we’ll host is exactly where we would have been in 2020.”
Wave I tickets have been on sale for just one week; there were no presales conducted for that event. Todd said 10% of those seats have been sold for the eight sessions over four days.
“We think that will be a late-arriving crowd,” Todd said. “Travel parties might be a little smaller. I think those numbers will shoot up here in the next few weeks.”
Because the Omaha organizing groups and USA Swimming have transformed the trials into a must-see event, ticket sales pre-pandemic were 99% sold out at full capacity, with 90% of ticket holders coming from out of state.
As people feel more comfortable attending sporting events around the country, Todd anticipates more will make at least one, and maybe two, trips to Omaha in June.
“Most of the people will still be from out of state and they’ll be scooping up those (hotel) rooms and placing a lot of takeout orders,” Todd said. “Safety is still the number one concern, but as more and more people see that things are getting safer around the country, they’ll want to get to big events like this.”
Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or the CHI Health Center box office.