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  USA Water Polo's Visit To Chicago Energizes the Midwest

  By Aaron Brown

  June 13, 2015


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When USA Water Polo announced that the Men's National Team would be playing the last leg of their four-part series against Serbia in Chicago on June 7, an immediate buzz circulated throughout the Illinois water polo community. The announcement, which was made on April 28, came during the tail-end of the high school water polo season and from then on it seemed like every water polo-related conversation included a mention of the event.


With the opportunity to show the national body of the sport how enthusiastic Illinois is about water polo, the fans did not disappoint. USA Water Polo announced that tickets for the event were sold out on May 29. As the event neared, it started to become clear that other states from the Midwest were also getting in on the action, as water polo aficionados from Michigan, Missouri and Ohio snapped up tickets and prepared to make the journey to the Windy City for the event.


On the day of the game, the buzz for the event was at an all-time high, as water polo fans on Twitter were talking about the lengths they would go to get a good seat while others were still holding out hope that a ticket would become available at the last minute.


Former Curie water polo player Ofelia Rodriguez was one of the first fans to get to the venue. She stated: "I've waited in line for 10 hours for concerts all in preparation for tonight. I will get a good seat."


Andrew High School's Mike Brennan worked through lunch in order to get to the game early and ended up with a front row seat. "There was no better feeling than to be able to wave our country's flag over Team USA," he said. "It was an incredible atmosphere having the Midwest's best come out to cheer on the U.S. in a sport we all love so much."


Fans were let into the pool area ninety minutes before the game was scheduled to begin and yet nearly every seat was taken almost immediately. The UIC Natatorium, which has an arena-like setup, was so full by game-time that there were fans standing around nearly the entire facility.


As someone who has covered the sport for more than a decade, it was astonishing and overwhelming to look up from the pool deck and see current and former players, coaches, parents and others who have been involved in the sport. This was the first water polo-related event that I can recall which brought together a crowd like this, and they were treated to an unbelievable game of water polo between the two national teams.


After the game ended, the players and coaches from the USA Water Polo team signed autographs, took pictures and showed their appreciation for the fans who attended the event. The YouTube video of the game has been viewed more than 30,000 times and will likely become the most viewed upload for USA Water Polo's YouTube channel. Fans on Twitter are still talking about the experience and retweeting videos of the game-winning shot by Luca Cupido several days after the event concluded.


"I think the entire Midwest proved how passionate we are about the sport," Rodriguez added. "People were willing to drive hundreds of miles to see the National Team and support the sport."


Illinois had a chance to prove to the sport's national governing body that there is plenty of potential for growth here. Several other Midwest states joined in. The results were impressive.


"As illustrated by the attendance, we have a loyal water polo fanbase here in Chicago," said former New Trier and Brown University water polo player Gerrit Adams. "The ability to see some of the best players in the world play in our city is tremendously impactful and important to the continued growth of the sport."





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