Is San Antonio ushering in a new era of success as a major elite swimming destination?
Not yet, but it is taking steps in the right direction.
Recently, officials from the Northside Independent School District and San Antonio sports announced that the Alamo City would play host to three major swim meets in 2015:
- The U.S. Masters Spring National Championships from April 24-27;
- The Phillips 66 National Championships from Aug. 4-8;
- And the Speedo Junior National Championships from Aug. 10-14;
The setting for these events will be the Northside Swim Center at Farris Stadium off Loop 1604 near UTSA.
That would normally be nothing but great news for the city’s sports ambassadors, except these events are sort of consolation prizes for what could have been a landmark moment for San Antonio athletics – hosting of the 2016 Olympic Trials, the largest swimming event in the nation. San Antonio was in the running for this gold standard event, with a retrofitted-for-swimming Alamodome proposed as the center of the swimming universe, but we lost out on that bid. Instead, the 2016 Olympic Trials will be in Omaha, Neb.
Still, proponents of the Alamo City as a competitive swimming destination have a lot to celebrate. The gleaming new outdoor competition pool at the Northside Swim Center is a first in Texas, with a 2,400-seat stadium, 25-meter diving pool and two 50-meter pools, one indoor and one outdoor.
There are only two other facilities in the nation like it – in California and Florida. For organizers of competitive swim events, the additional 50-meter pool is attractive because it allows for holding timed races in both pools concurrently, reducing the overall meet time. And, of course, the Northside Swim Center will support the area’s largest school district and its 11 high schools and 40-plus swim teams.
It’s not like San Antonio has not had notable swimming ambassadors. Josh Davis, a Churchill High School graduate, brought home gold at the 1996 Olympic Games and captained the 2000 Olympic U.S. Swim Team, helping bring back silver medals. Jimmy Feigen, the youngest member of Team USA at the 2012 Olympics, earned a silver with his teammates in the 4×100 freestyle and is expected to be a force in 2016.
But what does the addition of world-class swim facility here mean for the future of the sport?
The launch of the San Antonio Scorpions professional soccer team two years ago infused new life in the city’s youth soccer programs. Being the hometown to NBA and WNBA franchises and playing host to three NCAA Final Four events makes basketball one of the most popular recreational activities for all ages.
The three events coming to San Antonio in 2015 are just the start of what should be a Golden Era of swimming. San Antonio Sports Chairman George Block told Swimming World magazine earlier this year that he wants a shot at luring the Pan Pacific championships to South Texas. We will no doubt make another bid for a U.S. Olympic Trials and World Championships, too.
In the not-too-distant future, passionate swimmers in this community will be joined by new fans who will take to the water due, in part, to the excitement generated by world-class swimming events in our backyard.
Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff, a former professional tennis player on the WTA Circuit, heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical alternatives to relieve pain and repair injuries. Learn more about her at www.drzmd.com.