Jacksonville bids to host 2016 Olympic swim trials

Trials would be held at Veterans Memorial Arena


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville wants to host the 2016 Olympic swimming trials and has put in a bid to do so.

City officials are awaiting word soon from USA Swimming to see if the River City is being considered.

The event would not be held at Jacksonville's regular swim venues like Cecil Aquatic Center or The Bolles School's training site, but at Veterans Memorial Arena, where there is no water.

The arena has been known to house a basketball court, big stages for concerts and the circus. But how can it be made into a swimming pool? Can it be done?

The city says yes, and points to Omaha, Neb., which built a temporary pool inside its arena that was used in 2008 and again in 2012 for the Olympic trials.

Jacksonville wants to do the same thing and should find out soon if it is in the running.

"It's a taste of the Olympics," said Alan Verlander, the city's director of sports and entertainment. "You are bringing part of the Olympics to Jacksonville, and it's a major event and puts us on an international stratosphere."

Right now, no one is saying how much it would cost to host the event and build a temporary pool. The bid calls for a partnership with USA Swimming.

Charlie Houchin won a gold medal in the Olympics last summer. He now lives in Jacksonville and is training for the 2016 games. He says Jacksonville and Olympic swimming would be a great fit.

"I would not be surprised if they brought it here," Houchin said. "I know the families and everybody involved in the swimming community always shows up for olympic trials every four years, so you are at least going to get that base. And I think Jacksonville is a great town to draw even more people."

As for a temporary pool, Houchin says it's becoming the norm.

"These temporary pools that they build now they have down to a science," he said. "So I am very confident of what they put up in the arena in Jacksonville would be a very fast pool, a very exciting pool to swim in."