Whether Baltimore is chosen as the site for the 1992 U.S. Gymnastic Olympic Trials may have more to do with how convenient the Arena is to hotels and other activities for competitors, than it does with the Arena itself.
The U.S. Gymnastics Federation will award the rights to the event Dec. 1, and Baltimore is one of the finalists, along with Memphis, Tenn., and Columbus, Ohio.
"We're very concerned about the services, about training schedules, everything," said Mike Jacki, executive director of the USGF. The trials are scheduled for June 6-14, 1992.
"We want everything as simple as possible," Jacki said. "We want no opportunity for sidetracks. We feel, given the astonishing amount of time these young people put into their training, two-thirds of their lifetime in some cases, that when they come to this event they should win their opportunity or lose it while competing, not because of distractions or traffic jams or poor logistics."
The event will feature 60 gymnasts competing for the 14 spots on the U.S. Olympic team. Yesterday, Jacki and his committee completed their tour of the city. He said he liked what he saw.
"It's a nice physical environment, with the closeness of the hotels and Arena," he said. "The Inner Harbor provides a relaxing opportunity for kids who want to get out and a place for their families. This environment is very conducive to what we want."
The city's estimated budget for the event is $1.7 million, with the USGF guaranteed $350,000, which goes toward the development of the U.S. Olympic team.
In return, some of the benefits provided by the USGF include national exposure through two network television shows and media coverage, plus the economic impact on hotels and restaurants as spectators come to town for the event.
Jacki left for Memphis yesterday afternoon, knowing the next two cities on his tour also have their assets.
Baltimore organizers say the city has one of the strongest gymnastics communities in the country, with cooperation among the women's, men's and rhythmic groups.
"We're hoping our overall picture and our spirit will overcome whatever advantage facilities in another city may have," said Jan Greenhawk, women's chairman of USGF Region 7. "It would be a great event for us and a great benefit to our local programs."
Columbus also offers an active gymnastics community, and it demonstrated it can handle a big-time event by hosting the United States/Soviet dual meet in 1989.
But perhaps the biggest challenge comes from Memphis, where a new 20,500-seat arena called The Great American Pyramid is due to open next year.