This is the first year Sarasota has hosted the U.S. Rowing Masters National Championships event. Governor Rick Scott welcomed all of the athletes and fans to the facility at Nathan Benderson Park early on Thursday.
More than 6,000 athletes, officials, coaches and spectators are all staying in town and enjoying what is a developing facility. A lot of local money has been invested in the park. Manatee and Sarasota counties have submitted a formal bid to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
State and local funding has been invested to help the rowing center to attract national and international events. Florida has invested $5 million on this project in each of the two last fiscal years in order to bring more visitors to the area.
The International Federation of Rowing Associations, representing 136 countries, will choose the site September 2nd.
"Because of the policies we put into place over the last two years, we are able to make strategic investments that will create even more jobs and economic opportunity in Florida. The Rowing Center at Benderson Park is a going to be a great benefit to the families and businesses of Southwest Florida for years to come," Gov.Scott said.
On August 5th, Sarasota and Manatee counties received the support from the International Federation of Rowing Associations (FISA) council to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships. This single, two-week event would bring an estimated 42,000 visitors to the Sarasota area. FISA's Congress will vote on the council's recommendation at the site of the 2013 championships in Chungju, South Korea, on September 2, 2013.
Benderson Park remains under construction as officials build the infrastructure needed for world-class competitive rowing.
The governor's $74.5 billion 2014 budget includes $5 million for improvements to Benderson Park, which also received a $5 million state allocation in 2013.
"What a great opportunity for the region to be able to showcase Nathan Benderson Park to the governor of our beautiful state," said Elliott Falcione, the convention bureau's executive director. "We are excited to have the opportunity to thank the governor for his ongoing support of one of the top aquatic centers in the western hemisphere."
The governor understands the value of the rowing effort, said Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle.
"My understanding is he's coming just to support the rowing venue, he sees the value, he knows we're just around the corner, hopefully, from being selected," said Bustle. "He wants to throw his weight behind us."
"We entered in what's called the Open Women's eight, which allows for different programs to combine and we combined forces with another local favorite, Sarasota County rowing, with Sarasota Crew," said Jason Moskowitz, who is Head Coach of the Masters Sarasota Crew. "We had 5 of our rowers and one of our cousins and three of their rowers in the Women's 8 and we took the Bronze Medal. Third in the country, our ladies are here enjoying themselves now, basking in their victory. In June, our boys took the national title and that was a first time ever for our Sarasota Crew, I believe first time ever for Sarasota. The last several years in a row it was taken by the same program out of San Francisco and we stopped that, very happily."
We also met Cal Sutliff, who rows for the Potomac Boat Club out of the Washington, D.C. area. He ran a cable company for years and after he retired, then took up rowing, a sport he had briefly pursued in high school.
He's a smaller guy and said rowing is a big guy's or gal's sport. But now, in the prime of his life, he won his race at the events Thursday.
"I found out I couldn't play golf worth a damn and fortunately, I started on my rowing and it worked well for me," laughed Sutliff. "I'm just getting started. What are some of the age ranges? Oh yeah, there's a guy in my race Sunday who's 90 years old and two of them are in their 80's. And I only have one guy in my actual age group. So does it keep you young? You seem like you're fit! It keeps you young just working out like this every day. I row five or six days a week."
To see a schedule of all the events, here is a link to their website:
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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