The floor of Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville has featured the concert stage for Jimmy Buffett shows, a skating rink for Disney on Ice, the hardwood court for NCAA tournament basketball and the turf for Sharks arena football.
If Jacksonville can win the right to host the 2016 Olympics swimming trials, the floor of the arena would get its biggest makeover yet.
Crews would build an aboveground, Olympic-sized pool in the middle of the arena.
Two weeks ago a contingent of Jacksonville officials traveled to Colorado to meet with USA Swimming executives about bidding for the 2016 Olympic trials.
"It's a spectacular event," said Alan Verlander, the city's director of sports and entertainment.
The winning city for 2016 will benefit from the publicity and the visitors booking hotel rooms and spending money. The 2008 trials in Omaha, Neb., tallied a total attendance of about 160,000 over eight days, and 60 percent of the spectators came from out of state, according to a study done for the Omaha Sports Commission. The visitors spent $13.2 million during their stays.
Hosting the event also gives national exposure. Omaha, which is hosting the trials again this year, will get some prime-time spotlight when NBC televises all eight days of swimming.
Jacksonville was among 15 cities attending the pre-bid conference May 15. Verlander said the city plans to make a pitch for the event when USA Swimming invites bids this year.
"We really feel we'd be able to sell out all the events and create a buzz to be part of the Olympic process," he said.
He said the city will tout its tourist attractions and the importance Jacksonville has played over the years as a training spot for Olympic swimmers.
Jacksonville lawyer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Episcopal School graduate, won three Olympic gold meals and a silver.
The Bolles School is one of the nation's top high school programs. Gregg Troy, the coach of the Olympic men's swimming team, was head coach at Bolles from 1977 to 1997 before moving to the University of Florida.
Sergio Lopez, the current head coach at Bolles, won an Olympic bronze medal swimming for Spain.
"There's a passionate swimming contingent in Jacksonville that really wants to help the city put its best foot forward," Verlander said.
The concept of building a temporary pool for an event is not new. Omaha did the same thing for the 2008 trials and again for the upcoming trials at its CenturyLink Center.
Omaha Sports Commission President Harold Cliff said the idea of building a pool in an arena typically is met with expressions of disbelief.
"The interesting reaction is when people come into the arena after the pool is finished," he said. "It doesn't look like a temporary pool. It looks like the pool has always been there."
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Source : http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2012-05-31/story/jacksonville-will-bid-2016-olympic-swimming-trials