Today will be another joyous occasion as Manatee and Sarasota celebrate the awarding of the 2017 World Rowing Championships with a gathering at Nathan Benderson Park, the host site for this momentous sporting event and economic bonanza.
Fresh from a victorious trip to South Korea to convince the International Federation of Rowing Associations to grant Southwest Florida this prize, the public-private partnership that earned the bid will revel in this accomplishment at the park with a press conference today.
Manatee and Sarasota county commissioners and tourism executives teamed with the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates and Benderson Development Co. to woo the federation, known as FISA.
And did they ever succeed, earning a unanimous vote from the 137-member FISA congress.
With an anticipated 100,000 visitors descending on the Manatee-Sarasota region in the fall of 2017, the biggest winners will be the hotels, restaurants and shops that the athletes, coaches and out-of-town spectators frequent while visiting. The estimated economic windfall could be somewhere between $25 million and $100 million.
The Sept. 2 announcement of the FISA vote came at this year's rowing championships, attended by a record 157,000 spectators in South Korea over eight days of competition.
Rowing is indeed a big deal internationally and is growing here in the United States -- even in Manatee County. Thanks to people like Trish Jackson, coach for Manatee County Youth Rowing, youngsters have been drawn to a sport hitherto unknown in these parts.
Manatee, Palmetto and Southeast high school now sport rowing teams with Jackson as coach, quite an accomplishment from just a few years ago when oars were not a competitive sporting device in the region. Now, middle schools are entering the equation with a waiting list of youngsters eager to participate.
Manatee County jumped aboard the trend early by constructing a rowing center at Fort Hamer Park several years ago -- earning kudos from college rowing coaches and athletes who enjoy the boathouse, floating docks and other amenities on the Manatee River. The smooth water and warm winter temperatures are a natural attraction -- not to mention the beaches on Anna Maria Island.
One of the bigger benefits other than the immediate economic infusion to the region from the 2017 international event will be the aftermath from an predicted 130 million viewers watching worldwide -- enticed to visit or even move here. And bring jobs.
Ahead of the 2017 event, though, is something else very interesting -- the 2014 Dragon Boat Festival. This will be Nathan Benderson Park's inaugural international event, a very colorful one that promises to bring more than 2,500 paddlers and some 3,500 people from around the globe. Anyone who has witnessed dragon boats will rejoice in this.
The 2017 World Rowing Championships are not just about tomorrow's economic boon but about the future, too. We expect to hear statements similar to these, reported in Monday's Herald, at today's press conference:
Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau: "We believe that this type of event will no doubt generate future business and real estate opportunities in our community that is vital to our future economy; that's what makes this accomplished objective so special."
Glenn Merry, chief executive officer of USRowing Association, which oversees the sport of rowing in the United States: "It puts Sarasota-Bradenton on the map of serious Olympic-level sports, not just for rowing, but for triathlon, marathon swimming and canoe-kayak. I think it will continue to bolster the community's economy, and bring more people to Sarasota-Bradenton for competition and training camps."
Many kudos to the public-private partnership that won this stellar event for our region.