Swim meet could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to Columbia

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Swim Club is preparing to host a regional swim meet next month as part of U.S.A. Swimming. According to the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, the swimming competition could have an economic impact of about $300,000 for Columbia.

The bureau gave $10,000 to the Columbia Swim Club to help with the event. Bureau spokesperson Megan McConachie said the money came out of its tourism development program.

“It’s a specific portion of our budget that’s set aside every year to help new and growing tourism-related events here in Columbia,” McConachie said.

The swim meet is expected to bring more than 1,000 spectators plus 700 swimmers from across six different states. McConachie said it could help grow Columbia’s tourist industry.

“A new event is always a great thing to get into Columbia,” she said. “Those folks will be staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, shopping in our stores, so there’s a really great economic impact behind this event.”

McConachie said it’s nice to have people from other states experience the town. She said she hopes they will consider Columbia as a destination for their future travels.

Columbia Swim Club President Chris Lorson agrees the event will benefit the city.

“Columbia’s really become a hot spot in the Midwest for swimming,” Lorson said.

He thinks a competition of this size will get more people interested in the sport.

“This kind of an event really raises the awareness for swimming, because the kids are so fast,” Lorson said. “I think it really gives people the feel for how fast kids can go and where they can go from here, whether or not you’re going to swim in college, or you just want to swim year-round.”

The swimmers for this meet are primarily 13 to 18 years old. About 60 of the club’s 250 swimmers will be participating.

Lorson said his athletes will face some tough opponents.

“The competition is really stiff,” he said. “There are kids that have been to the Olympic Trials.”

The Columbia Swim Club has hosted similar events in the summer over the past 10 years. Lorson said the visitor's bureau has funded some of those events, which has really allowed the club to grow.

Lorson said the regional meet is a special one for him, since both of his boys will be participating.

“My 14-year-old just qualified for the first time,” he said. “So I think this will be a fun family event for us certainly.”

The regional swim meet will be held at the MU Student Recreation Complex on March 9-12. Tickets are available at the Columbia Swim Club’s website.