Sarasota Polo Club to host Modern Pentathlon World Cup

rdymond@bradenton.comFebruary 24, 2014 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- In a twist of fate, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc. and the Sarasota Polo Club in Lakewood Ranch will play a major role in the 2014 Modern Pentathlon World Cup Final scheduled June 4-8.

At a press conference Sunday morning at the Sarasota Polo Club, former congresswoman and Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris, who is chairwoman of the World Cup, announced four of the five events in the World Cup final, including equestrian show-jumping, fencing, running and pistol shooting, have been moved from Sarasota's newly constructed Nathan Benderson Park to the Sarasota Polo Grounds due to a scheduling conflict.

Swimming will still be at the Selby Aquatic Center in Sarasota.

Sarasota and Bradenton officials had originally submitted a date of June 11-15 as their choice for the World Cup Final because there were no events scheduled at Nathan Benderson Park.

But The Union International de Pentathlon Moderne, the governing body, requested the event be moved back a week to June 4, which conflicts with The Sunshine State Games already set at Nathan Benderson Park, said Paul Blackketter , president of the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center.

"The Sunshine State Games includes rowing, canoeing, kayak sprints and stand-up paddleboard racing involving elite athletes from around the state of Florida," Blackketter said. "We understand what it takes to support each event and we want to give them both the best of the best. We don't want to compromise. Because of SMR having this huge facility, we have enough facilities to do both at same time."

The Union International de Pentathlon Moderne chose Manatee-Sarasota over competing cities such as Cairo, Rome and Budapest. The area will host four major pentathlon events, including the World Cup Final in 2014 and 2016, a World Cup first-round event in 2015 and the Olympic team trials in 2016.

"It worked out great," Harris said of the Sarasota Polo Club as a venue. "These are wonderful fields out here with excellent footing for the horses."

Harris called Rex Jensen, president and chief executive officer of SMR, to discuss moving the events to roughly 50 acres surrounding the Sarasota Polo Club clubhouse.

"Rex was enthusiastic and just told me whatever he could do to help he wanted to do," Harris said. "We're all thrilled. We will be introducing the world of Modern Pentathlon to Sarasota Polo's famous tailgating."

The 2014 World Cup Final will showcase the top 36 male and 36 female pentathlon athletes from around the world who are striving to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

To turn the Sarasota Polo Club into a Modern Pentathlon venue requires some structures, but nothing permanent, Blackketter said.

Officials will lay out an elliptical-shaped course on the polo field, outlined with flags, similar to a cross country course, to serve during the multiple 800-meter runs competitors must complete between other events.

There will be a target area with a row of tables containing laser pistols and an oval horse arena with 12 jumps and a fencing area east of the clubhouse.

There will be a VIP tent, athletes tent, grandstands, tailgating area for sponsors and a royalty building.

"They are like Prince of Monaco," Blackketter said when asked who will occupy the royalty building. "People at the highest levels follow Pentathlon and will attend the game."

The logo for the Modern Pentathlon program was released this week.

It was created by seniors Mariana Silva and Greg Mako from the Ringling College of Art and Design.

"The symbols for each of the five disciplines within the pentathlon are in the logo," said Angela Massaro-Fain, president of Sarasota's Grapevine Communications, which is handling advertising, marketing and public relations for the event. "This year's logo has a color palette that is blue, gray and teal, but next year the color will be modified, so as to distinguish each year."

"I like the logo," Blackketter said. "It shows the five sports and represents the complex athlete who can do all five."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.

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