Sarasota’s Benderson Park to Host 2017 World Rowing Championships

Nathan Benderson Park is located in Sarasota, Florida. It is slated to become North America’s premier 2,000-meter sprint course and regatta center by 2014. Over $40 million has been committed to the facility’s future development, including 2,200 meter racing lanes and straight shorelines by 2013, coaching lanes, wave attenuation, a multi-function boathouse and athlete training center, starting huts and finish towers, grand stands and a state-of-the-art boat maintenance and testing facility. Most of these facilities will be constructed on a first of its kind “regatta island” – an Olympic Village type setting which will provide competitors the support and focus which rowing demands, and spectators a viewing and entertainment platform unparalleled at sprint course elsewhere in the world.

The Park will also be home to numerous other paddle sport competitions, from dragon boats to canoe and kayak races, as well as triathlon and cross country events. To top it all off, the Park is located immediately adjacent to University Town Center – Southwest Florida’s premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination.


Nathan Benderson Park is a unique 600-acre park which provides the public with access to a 500-acre lake. The county purchased the site in the early 1990’s; before that, the property had been an active shell excavation pit for road construction fill. Cooper Creek enters the east side of the large lake and exits at the northwest corner. Nathan Benderson park is situated west of Interstate 75 and east of The Meadows residential community. The future north Cattlemen Road extension will provide additional access to the park and its amenities. This is one of a handful of sites in North America identified as having all of the natural attributes that make up a premiere rowing facility, Nathan Benderson Park began hosting organized regatta competitions in 2009. Two successful regattas were held in 2009, followed by four in 2010, seven in 2011, and seven in 2012! We are now looking forward to another successful up-coming regatta season in 2013!


World Class Rowing Status

What began as a construction borrow pit, Nathan Benderson Park has now officially been elevated to world-class status: the site of the 2017 World Rowing Championships, the sport's biggest splash outside of the Olympics. Benderson Development Co. executives and local tourism and government officials were celebrating in Chungju, South Korea, this Labor Day weekend after witnessing the 137-member International Federation of Rowing Associations Congress, or FISA, vote unanimously in favor of the park. The site near the Sarasota-Manatee county line becomes the official venue of the largest rowing event in the world for 2017. "I'm shaking like a leaf," said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, from South Korea moments after local officials signed a document accepting the 2017 championships. The years of investment to make Southwest Florida a worldwide rowing destination paid off, thanks to a partnership between taxpayers and Benderson, the area's largest real estate development firm.

The rowing dream envisioned by Randy Benderson, president of the Manatee County-based development company, and Paul Blackketter, a former Benderson employee turned chief operating officer of the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Association -- the nonprofit behind Benderson Park's operations -- reached fruition and set the stage for worldwide exposure for Southwest Florida. The selection by rowing's Swiss-based governing body caps years of effort to make this region among the premier rowing sites in North America, and cements Southwest Florida as a sports tourism magnet.


When the championships occur four years from now, it is estimated that some 42,000 athletes and supporters are slated to travel to Sarasota and Manatee counties, pumping an estimated $13 million in direct spending into the regional economy over 10 days of competition. It also will mark the biggest single-event draw to the region in history, providing a future boost to restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, stores and attractions, and international media attention. Local tourism and government officials, together with Suncoast Aquatic and Benderson officials, witnessed the selection earlier today. They spent the last several days at the site of the 2013 championships fostering support for the Benderson Park venue in the rowing community.

Trips to more international rowing events will continue now to promote the 2017 championship event and the park. "They only had positive things to say about our venue, especially our strong partnership and leadership," Blackketter said, referring to the FISA Congress. "They said we have great components to deliver great athlete experiences."

The world championships will be the sport's biggest event of 2017. "The congress is thankful that the United States finally has pulled together a partnership capable of bringing this event back to our country," Haley said. "There is definitely some international frustration that no one else has been able to pull it off. "We're the ones that are able to do what no one else can, and that's a pretty profound feeling." In winning the bid and a World Cup competition in 2016, Southwest Florida topped Plovdiv, Bulgaria, which hosted the 2012 world championship. Plovdiv -- a city with a population of 335,000 that has become a hotbed for rowing training and that is considered one of Europe's top venues -- will be the site of the 2018 world championship competition. "We are celebrating together tonight" with Plovdiv, Haley said.


Although a final date for 2017 has not yet been chosen, the world championships likely will take place here in September or October -- typically slow tourism months. In all, the region is expected to receive some $25 million in overall economic impact as a result of the event. Nathan Benderson Park garnered the support of even President Barack Obama, who signed a letter of endorsement included in Suncoast Aquatic's final bid package. Florida Governor Rick Scott also threw his backing behind the pitch for the world championships. Scott and the Florida Legislature allocated $5 million to the park this year for necessary infrastructure work, the latest in a series of financial contributions from state government. Governments in Sarasota and Manatee counties, meanwhile, collectively put $5.6 million toward hosting the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Benderson Development has pledged to cover any financial shortfall that might arise from the regatta.

"Citizens who attend our 2017 event need to be ready to see Olympic athletes, former and future in their prime," said Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid. "There will be awesome, flag-waving international competition in our own backyard. Spectators will hear foreign languages announcing events." The 2017 championship will start a new cycle of tournaments, following the 2016 Olympic Games scheduled for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For Nathan Benderson Park, the world championships also will catapult the venue forward. In 2018, the park will host the World Rowing Masters Regatta, and that same year, it will be the site of the 2018 World Rowing Coastal Championship, both of which are FISA-sanctioned international events. Though Benderson Park had secured a recommendation from a key FISA council in July, it was not until the weekend vote that local officials felt confident they had won the 2017 bid. That is because there is precedence for the FISA Congress to override its council's recommendation.


In 2002, the council recommended Plovdiv as the site for the 2006 World Rowing Championships, over venues in Eton Dorney Lake, in London, and Poznan, Poland, but when the FISA Congress convened, it chose Eton Dorney instead. "Many people felt ... that London offered a much better communications and promotional platform for the championships," said Colleen Orsmond, FISA's events manager. That reversal marked the first time in decades that the Congress had overturned a council vote, and it has not happened since. Backers were delighted that the Congress affirmed the council's decision this year. The 2017 championship will represent the first time the U.S. has hosted the world regatta in nearly a quarter century. "The regional aspects here of Tampa Bay is unsurpassed," said Manatee County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle. "The rest of the region needs to take notice of the South Bay area and see what kind of great work we're doing. This proves it." The real work for Southwest Florida is beginning, Haley said. "Now it's time to plan and really get down to business."


If you have any questions, or would like to get more information about energy saving features to watch for when buying a Sarasota home, please don't hesitate to contact us at (941) 284-4474 or Toll free (941) 404-4737. One of our qualified agents will gladly get back to you.

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