The United States Gymnastics Federation has selected Baltimore from among three finalist cities to host the 1992 U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials, an event that will bring equal amounts of prestige and money to the city.
The trials will bring 60 of the country's top gymnasts to the Baltimore Arena June 6-14, 1992, where they will compete, under the television eye of ABC Sports, for the 14 spots on the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team that will travel to Barcelona, Spain, for the Summer Games.
Baltimore outpointed Memphis, Tenn., which is building a new arena, and Columbus, Ohio, which offered experience, having been the host city for a U.S.-U.S.S.R. dual meet.
"Baltimore was our unanimous choice," said Mike Jacki, USGF executive director.
"This city and its people are committed and prepared to host the best Olympic trials our sport has ever had," he added.
Mr. Jacki and two other members of his executive committee visited Baltimore and the Inner Harbor in a whirlwind tour Nov. 4 and 5. But it appears that the tour guides could have simply walked them around the block.
Mr. Jacki said he was particularly impressed with the fact that the hotels that would house the athletes are within walking distance of the Arena.
Mr. Jacki made the point that these gymnasts, who will have spent
months in regional competition to get to the trials, will be more concerned with not missing their start times than they will be with shopping and dining at Harborplace.
"The amenities are nice," said Mr. Jacki after his tour. "The harbor is a nice place to wind down or for their families. And this is definitely a family event.
"But these young people have spent perhaps two-thirds of their lives to get to this point. They, most of them, will not get another chance. They need very, very few distractions. Therefore we are very concerned about servicing and transportation, everything to make it as simple and meaningful as possible."
Baltimore's flexibility no doubt impressed the USGF.
"We pretty much told them whatever they want, we can do," said Mike Marqua, director of the Maryland Office of Sports Promotion.
Baltimore also promised the USGF a guarantee of $350,000 based on a budget of $1.7 million, most of which Mr. Marqua said he expects to be underwritten by corporate sponsorship.
The city expects a big return on that investment.
"We anticipate an economic impact of more than $5 million as a result of this event," said J. Randall Evans, secretary of the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.
In 1988, the gymnastic trials were held in Salt Lake City under the sponsorship of the Utah Sports Federation.
"It's a fabulous event," executive director Vereena Rasmussen said yesterday. "We estimate we made about $2 million in state revenues, and that included 4,000 out-of-state spectators."
She said Baltimore, because of its location, may be able to draw more out-of-state spectators and more revenue.
"Five million dollars could be low for you," Ms. Rasmussen said.
Baltimore targeted the gymnastics trials and went after them, according to Mr. Marqua.
"We felt like this, of all the Olympic trials, was the gem," he said.
"We felt like it was eminently sponsorable, it brings with it four hours of national TV, and it is an event on a scale we can handle."
Mr. Marqua said Baltimore was also considering going after the Olympic trials for boxing, kayak-canoe and tae kwon do, a Korean self-defense system.