Benderson Park eyed for Pentathlon World Cup events

jajones1@bradenton.comNovember 15, 2013 

MANATEE -- Nathan Benderson Park, which will host the 2017 World Rowing Championships, is now also in the hunt to host Olympic Pentathlon World Cup events.

Rob Stull, a three-time Olympian and director of USA Pentathlon, was in the Bradenton-Sarasota area Thursday, Paul Blacketter said.

"He's here to evaluate the course," said Blacketter, who led the effort to bring the world rowing championship to Benderson Park.

The pentathlon includes five competitions: a 200-meter free-style swim, fencing, horse riding, shooting, and a 3,000 meter run. The event has its roots in skills important to the military, including shooting and horse riding.

Among those who have pledged $50,000 each to help bring Olympic Pentathlon World Cup events to Manatee-Sarasota are the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Visit Sarasota.

Local officials welcomed the opportunity to expand the area's brand for major sporting events.

"It's almost like planting seeds," said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's a great public relations opportunity."

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said if the effort to land Olympic Pentathlon World Cup events is successful, it would be "a coup" to

show that Manatee-Sarasota ranks among the world's leading sports venues.

Rob Ferguson, corporate director of sales for Kinsman Hotel Associates, and a leader among hoteliers in providing rooms for major sporting events in Bradenton-Sarasota, said that the Lakewood Ranch Holiday Inn has been proposed as host hotel for Olympic Pentathlon World Cup events.

"I know they are working on trying to bring the World Cup events here. We're holding rooms for them if it goes through," Ferguson said.

Bradenton-Sarasota are not alone in the Tampa Bay area in the quest for world championships. Tampa unsuccessfully sought to host the 2012 Olympics, that were awarded to London. The 2016 Olympics will be hosted by Rio de Janeiro.

The World Rowing Championships for 2017 were awarded to Manatee-Sarasota in September by a unanimous vote of governing officials meeting in South Korea,

The championships put Sarasota-Bradenton "on the map of serious Olympic-level sports, not just for rowing, but for triathlon, marathon swimming and canoe-kayak," the Herald quoted Glenn Merry, chief executive officer of USRowing Association, as saying in September.

"I think it will continue to bolster the community's economy, and bring more people to Sarasota-Bradenton for competition and training camps," Merry said, according to Herald archives.An estimated 42,000 athletes, coaches and fans are expected for the rowing championships, which would be broadcast to 130 million viewers.

Those visitors would help generate millions of dollars of extra revenue for the Bradenton-Sarasota economy, officials say.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1.

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