Indy builds Eiffel Tower replica to welcome Olympic Trials.

Indianapolis has a long history as one of the best host cities in the world. From the Super Bowl to the Pan American games, Indy has come together time and time again to welcome the world’s most popular sporting events with unprecedented style.

And when the 2024 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials come to town on June 15, Indianapolis will catapult its host city reputation to new heights, tackling creative endeavors that have never been attempted before.

For the first time in history, the Swimming Trials will be held inside a football field, as Indy’s own Lucas Oil Stadium transforms into an Olympic natatorium. Crews are building three temporary pools inside the stadium, so more than 30,000 people can watch the nation’s fastest swimmers compete for a spot on the sport’s most coveted team.

But before these elite athletes even have a chance to hit the water, they’ll be greeted by a massive monument to their Olympic journey—a 66-foot, 14,000-pound replica of the Eiffel Tower.

This glittering beacon will overlook Lucas Oil Stadium, reminding competitors of what’s at stake—a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Such a massive undertaking wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of hundreds of volunteers over years of collaboration. But Indianapolis always makes an effort to invest in these events, creating unique opportunities for artists to perform on the world stage.

Volunteers make Indy an unforgettable stop on the Road to Paris.

Like many great feats in Hoosier hospitality, the idea for this Eiffel Tower started with Indiana Sports Corp (ISC). Founded in 1979 as the nation’s first sports commission, ISC pioneered the idea of a Local Organizing Committee, where volunteers work together to bring major events to life.

So, once USA Swimming decided that the Road to Paris would run through Indianapolis, ISC recruited 50 volunteers for the Indy Experience Committee, charged with designing unique fan experiences for everyone to enjoy.

“The Indy Experience Committee has rallied around this event like no other,” said Ashleigh Newbold, VP of Engagement at ISC. “And again, they are volunteering. They are busy people, but they have dropped everything at a moment’s notice to be able to contribute to this event in a huge way. And they are really the driving visionaries behind everything that you’re going to see outside of the Stadium.”

Faced with the difficult task of planning a nine-day swimming festival, Co-Chair Jenny Cash said the committee sought to create an immersive experience for the city that would embody the spirit of these Olympics.

“We really challenged ourselves,” Cash said. “Knowing that the 52 swimmers who qualify are ultimately headed to Paris, we wanted to bring that Parisian experience to Indy.”

As the committee discussed options, they knew exactly how they could transport Hoosiers to the City of Love—by handcrafting a replica of the iconic Eiffel Tower. This replica would be comprised of five separate sections, made entirely of steel sourced in Indiana. Once complete, the structure would be bolted together and installed on Georgia Street, where it would stand in the heart of downtown throughout the Trials.

The only question left was who could build it. Fortunately, Consuelo Lockhart—Executive Director of the Latinas Welding Guild—was on the Indy Experience Committee and willing to throw their hat in the ring.

The Latinas Welding Guild is an empowering voice for women in welding.

Founded by Lockhart in 2017, the Latinas Welding Guild (LWG) is a nonprofit dedicated to providing barrier-free education for aspiring welders. Their programming focuses on multigenerational welding instruction, but their workshop also produces custom fabrication work. This Eiffel Tower replica will be their biggest project yet, giving LWG a platform to advocate for welders in underrepresented communities.

“The [welding] industry itself across the country is about 5% women. And about 30% of the industry is diverse, so our 5% falls within that 30%,” said Lockhart. “From that perspective as women in leadership—marginalized women and a very grassroots organization—being able to lead a project like this is huge.”

Lockhart is also excited to see the impact of a public art project like this, one that challenges the notion of what industries are traditionally deemed creative.

“I still feel there’s a negative connotation people have when they think of welding or manufacturing,” said Lockhart, “because people don’t see a lot of things that are welded or know about things around them being welded. So, we’re just hoping [the Eiffel Tower] sparks some interest in people.”

As of 2022, there were 431,800 welding jobs in the U.S. And with an oncoming wave of retirement for welders across the nation, Lockhart hopes this high-profile art piece will start conversations about the trade.

“When I was growing up, I said, ‘I’m going to art school,’” Lockhart said. “I never thought about welding because you don’t really hear people talking about how welding can be an artistic or creative outlet. But once you have the skill set, you can literally make whatever you want… So, that’s the hope. That we can get more students who’ve considered welding, but never thought about the creative element to it.”

Indianapolis is no stranger to innovation and collaboration.

In order to build this massive tower, a team of nine local welders has dedicated more than 1,000 hours into its fabrication. However, these talented artists have not been without support, as organizations across the state donate their time and resources to help ISC realize their vision.

One of the tower’s key contributors is F.A. Wilhelm Construction, who volunteered to help with project management, transportation logistics, and even the final installation and removal. Erecting this replica will be no small task, but Wilhelm has ample experience taking on large projects that give back to the community.

“Wilhelm continuously seeks opportunities to build and support the communities in which we live and work,” said Matt Comparato, VP of Marketing at F.A. Wilhelm Construction. “When Indiana Sports Corp reached out, there was no hesitation to join the team and help bring the Eiffel Tower to life for this momentous event in our city.”

Other generous supporters include AES Indiana, the tower’s sponsor, as well as ERMCO and Dodd Technologies who will illuminate the tower and ensure it shines as efficiently as possible. On top of that, SYNLawn will transform the pavement surrounding the tower into a grassy lawn, so visitors can roll out a picnic blanket and take in the glow.

The Eiffel Tower display will transport Hoosiers over 4,000 miles away.

Throughout the nine days of Olympic Trials, Indy will become a hub of Parisian-inspired culture. Softening the buzz of the city, Georgia Street will transform into a peaceful park, reminding Hoosiers of the beauty that exists miles away in France.

Petite tables and fresh florals will speckle the streets. The mouth-watering aroma of delicious treats will fill the air, as local food vendors bring French flavors to Indy. You may even get a chance to feel the love, and glimpse a wedding ceremony beneath the tower.

For a little over a week, this awe-inspiring sculpture will take center stage and show the world that Indianapolis doesn’t settle for the status quo.

“Other cities just don’t do it the way Indy does,” said Becca Manolov, Co-Chair of the Indy Experience Committee. “We are really exceptional about bringing the community together to support our strategic vision and execute with excellence.”

And to shine a spotlight on Indy’s creative scene, local artists will also be invited to set up their easels beside the Eiffel Tower and paint within this serene space. All of this excitement, inside and outside Lucas Oil Stadium, is designed to bring our community together and foster the tight-knit bond Indy is known for.

“As somebody that did not grow up here, my earliest moments of feeling a sense of belonging and connection to this community were sporting events with Indiana Sports Corp,” said Neelay Bhatt, Co-Chair of the Indy Experience Committee. “Few things in the world bring people together like sporting events do, and swimming is one of the sports that will actually save lives. So, the legacy will last well beyond just the events’ nine days.”

This isn’t the first time Indy has made history—or the last.

As Indy watches history in the making at Lucas Oil Stadium, the city will reminisce on when it first hosted this very competition over a century ago.

In a rare twist of fate, Indianapolis also hosted the 1924 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, when Team USA was last bound for Paris. But back then, there was no Eiffel Tower or stadium packed with people. In fact, the 1924 Olympic Trials took place in a much more modest setting—Broad Ripple Park.

Today, all that physically remains from that competition are the red and white pool tiles that line the underside of the park’s bridge. But the legacy of the 1924 Trials lives on in this year’s festivities.

The parallels between these Olympic Trials offer Hoosiers a nostalgic glimpse into the city’s storied history and a sense of excitement for its bright future.

“[In Indy] there is a history,” Bhatt said. “But there’s also a vision for the future of this global city that celebrates multiculturalism, that celebrates this diversity we have. So to me, this is a celebration—not only for the Olympic aspect of it—but the legacy in terms of building a more global community.”

In many ways, this replica Eiffel Tower is a testament to that vision, as our community comes together to support diverse artists and celebrate international culture. It represents the waves made by our volunteers and the impact this competition will have on our community for years to come.

Thanks to the tireless work of local nonprofits, such as Indiana Sports Corp and the Latinas Welding Guild, Indianapolis has created a culture of creativity. By hosting these large-scale events, we create new opportunities throughout our community. And through ground-breaking initiatives like the Eiffel Tower project, our city is reimagining what it means to invest in your creative economy.