Sarasota officials are celebrating the success of their bid this week to host the World Rowing Championships in 2017. The competition is one of the most significant for the sport of rowing outside of the Olympics.
The International Federation of Rowing Association’s Congress voted unanimously at their meeting in South Korea this week to select Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota as the site of the Championships in four years.
The week-long competition is expected to bring 42,000 people to the region for an estimated economic impact of about $25 million. Tourism experts say the benefits will be felt beyond the Sarasota/Manatee County region.
“Some of these teams don’t like to train, if they can, where everyone else is,” said Visit Sarasota President Virginia Haley. “This is going to have a huge impact on the state of Florida because teams are going to be looking for places to train in Naples, in Fort Myers, in Panama City Beach,” she said. “We’re going to see them throughout the state and many of them will be coming to train for the Olympics in Brazil so this will have a significant statewide impact.”
The venue for the championships, Nathan Benderson Park received a $5 million allocation from the state this year in addition to $5 million in bed tax revenue from Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Association CEO Paul Blackketter is seeking out another $15 million to get the park ready for the international competition. That includes construction of a boathouse on the site along with start and finish towers along the course. Those projects are slated for completion by 2016.
“We’ve already seen that substantial growth here in Sarasota and Manatee Counties where Sarasota boasts one of the strongest rowing clubs in the country,” said Blackketter. “Also we have a new club in Manatee County and they’re close to 100 athletes and three years ago, they were zero.”