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Updated Apr 23, 2014 - 7:50 pm

Aquatics center ready for Michael Phelps, big crowds

MESA, Ariz. -- A swimming center in Mesa is getting ready for a big weekend featuring Olympic star Michael Phelps.

The 22-time Olympic medalist will be swimming in a competition for the first time since the London Olympics in 2012.

The Skyline Aquatics Center is home of the second annual Arena Grand Prix Thursday through Saturday.

"The Arena Grand Prix is actually a series of meets throughout the country that is designed to have the top athletes in the world come and compete," said Arena Media Director Erin Shields. "There's prize money throughout the events with an overall winner at the end."

Shields said that the winner can claim $150,000 in prizes.

The news that Phelps will be in the event has made a big splash in ticket sales.

"Within 24 hours of the announcement, we had sold out all 1,200 seats for all 6 of the competition sessions," Shields said.

Several other swimming stars will also be competing.

"The names that I think that most households would recognize would be (Olympic medal winners) Ryan Lochte and Anthony Ervin, who was a fan favorite last year, and Matt Grevers, from Tucson, who is obviously somebody that we all love," said Shields.

Shields said that the Aquatics Center is ready for the event.

"I think it's exciting. We prepare all year long and have a number of amazing athletes," Shields said. "There's not a whole lot that changes."

Over 500 swimmers from around the world will complete in the event. Shields said that the Friday and Saturday night sessions will be nationally televised on the Universal Sports Network.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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