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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.