By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The new Tupelo Aquatic Center has landed its first major competitions nine months before its scheduled opening.
It will host both the short course and long course Mississippi Swimming State Championships next year.
The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau on Wednesday announced its successful bid for the events.
The short course championship will be held Feb. 21-23 and the long course meet July 17-20. According to a news release issued by the CVB, Tupelo is the first city to be awarded both events in the same year.
The two championship races are the first scheduled for the facility, which is scheduled to be completed this fall. The win is being hailed as a major victory by those involved in convincing the city to invest in the project in order to boost tourism.
“We’re not totally surprised but we’re absolutely ecstatic about getting both of them right out of the box,” Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said.
Each meet will host more than 400 swimmers. Reed said this is proof that the center will be an economic driver of tourism, as well as an enhancement to the quality of life of Tupelo residents.
The mayor, along with officials from the Park and Recreation Department and the CVB, promoted the project as an investment in the city’s ability to draw tax revenue through sports tourism.
Reed said Tupelo has long been known as premier place for youth sports. “Twenty years ago, we were the first to have really superior soccer fields,” he said, “We are still reaping the benefits.”
Although the city has hosted short course meets in the past, it will be the first long course meet for the city because it did not have the facility to host one before.
“In order to bid for bigger events we must host two meets with more than 400 swimmers, and we hope to have accomplished that by June of 2014 with the Short Course State Championship and a Shockwave Invitational Meet,” said CVB Director Neal McCoy.
The state-of-the-art facility has a warm-up pool separate from the competition pool that is a draw for swim clubs. The center can set up to 900 people.
According to the news release, the center will open in January with “20 lanes for short course and eight lanes for long course swimming.”
Reed added, “In swimming, we will be a Mid-South destination, not just a Mississippi destination.”