How Omaha has cultivated the College World Series and the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials into destination events for fans has spilled over to help fill the city’s 2020 sporting calendar like never before.
Snuggly placed between a pair of NCAA tournament offerings — first- and second-round men’s basketball games in March and the women’s volleyball final four in mid-December, both at the CHI Health Center — are nine events that will attract varying levels of attention, some on a national level.
The CWS and the Swim Trials have storied histories in Omaha. Both championship events — the Trials double as the USA Swimming national championships in Olympic years — take place in June and again will keep hotel proprietors and restaurant staffs happily overwhelmed.
Then there are events like the Major League Baseball amateur draft and the Adidas Gauntlet basketball showcase that will make their Omaha debuts in 2020.
The CWS is synonymous with Omaha, starting here in 1950, and the Swimming Trials have become an unexpected gem coveted by other cities but now seemingly married to Omaha based on positive reviews from all corners.
Indeed, Omaha and USA Swimming have partnered to turn the Trials into a compelling eight-day, prime time showcase.
When a one-week sports competition can produce a $74 million economic impact for its community, which the Trials did for Omaha in 2016, other municipalities become interested in securing that event.
Josh Todd, Omaha Sports Commission executive director, said the Trials were an event he looked at bidding on when he was in a similar role in the greater Phoenix area.
“The Swim Trials have become a crown jewel event. It’s one everyone would like to get,” Todd said. “It’s become so big because of how Omaha and USA Swimming have worked to make it a great event. The Trials have become a destination event because of that.”
How the success of the Trials has increased since it was first hosted in Omaha in 2008 — the 2020 Trials will be the fourth consecutive at the downtown arena — has organizers and fans of other sports events hopeful that Omaha’s magic touch will help them grow, too.
Drafting off the tradition that Omaha has been the destination city for every Division I college baseball program, MLB announced late last year that its 2020 amateur draft will be conducted in Omaha.
The MLB draft will take place June 10-12 at the Holland Performing Arts Center, with the CWS scheduled to begin June 13 just down the street at TD Ameritrade Park. Also on June 12-13 there will be a swimming event — the Visit Omaha Cup — across the street at the CHI Health Center.
The Visit Omaha Cup will serve as a test run for the Trials that run from June 21-28 with an estimated 400 to 500 swimmers expected to participate. There was a similar event prior to the first three Trials hosted in Omaha; it was called the Swimvitational in 2008 and 2012 before being dubbed the Omaha Cup in 2016.
With those four events, June will be the busiest month on the Omaha sports calendar. There are two big events in both April and July, followed by the PRCA-sanctioned River City Rodeo at CHI Health Center Sept. 25-26.
The Adidas Gauntlet, a showcase league for top-level grassroots summer club basketball teams from around the country, will take place April 22-24 at Iowa West Fieldhouse in Council Bluffs and Union Bank & Trust Sports Complex in Elkhorn. The courts will be full of top-level college prospects, and the games will attract not only hoops fans but coaches from Division I programs from coast to coast.
Equestrian enthusiasts again will spend four days, beginning April 9, at the CHI Health Center enjoying the Burlington Capital International.
The two July events are The Capitol District street vault (a pole vaulting competition) on July 23 — one day before the start of the Tokyo Olympics — and the Pinnacle Bank Championship golf tournament that’s part of the Korn Ferry Tour July 27-Aug. 2 at The Club at Indian Creek.
Read on to learn more about each of these events dotting Omaha’s sporting landscape this year.