Even without spectators, collegiate swim meet expected to be economic boost for Terre Haute

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Local officials said they are hoping a collegiate swim meet headed to Terre Haute this weekend will begin the road to recovery for the local economy.

The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference will hold its 2021 Swimming and Diving Championships at the Vigo County School Corporation Aquatic Center from March 5 through 7.

The competition will bring five colleges to Terre Haute to compete against Rose-Hulman. Those five teams will be staying at local hotels and eating at area restaurants.

“Originally when the discussion of this started to take place in January, we were concerned, or not really concerned, but we were thinking it would be a timed finals meet over two days with three sessions,” Randy Jensen, aquatic center director, said. “And we’ve gone back to a traditional format. Three day meet, prelims at 10 a.m. Finals at 5 p.m. each day.”

This is the fourth straight year the aquatic center has hosted the HCAC Championships. In 2017, the event brought in approximately $2 million to the local economy. Without fans and spectators, this year’s event is expected to bring in around $100,000.

“It’s going to be a slow process, I think, coming back (from the pandemic), but the good news is, we’re going forward,” David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Visitor’s Bureau, said. “So starting things with outdoor events and trying to focus on those simply because there is less chance of breaching protocols or people getting sick.”

Patterson said he feels optimistic about the state of tourism.

“I think the fall events are still in a wait and see mode, but we’re starting to see things start to come along,” he said. “We have a big soccer tournament in April, so it’s starting to turn a corner for the better, and we’re all happy to see that.”

Even though spectators won’t be allowed at the HCAC event this year, the aquatics center is asking for community volunteers to work the event.

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