PARRISH -- When the county was making plans for a rowing facility at Fort Hamer, it's unlikely that anyone pictured a bunch of accountants in a scull.
But Doug Van Dyke, a leadership consultant at Leadership Simplified, figured it could be the perfect place to teach team-building skills while offering more exposure to Manatee County rowing.
He found the perfect opportunity when AVI SPL, a video conferencing system integration company from Tampa, wanted a way to get their employees out of the office and into the sunshine for team building.
So Van Dyke brought more than a dozen accountants to the park May 9 to learn how to row as a team.
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"There are a lot of team-building things out there that can feel good and be fun, and what I was looking for with that was something that was really going to stick," Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke, a Parrish resident, was familiar with the park and knew Trish Jackson, head coach of Manatee County Youth Rowing, and after some discussions, figured that a rowing course would be a perfect fit for his client. AVI SPL donated money to the Rowing Club for its assistance, including the use of some equipment.
The park hosts law enforcement diving drills and team building events, but organizers believe this might be the first team building event to use rowing at the park.
Carol Whitmore, chairwoman for the Tourism Development Commission and one of the county commissioners who approved spending money for the Fort Hamer rowing facility, said she has never heard of anyone using the rowing facility for a business exercise.
"When we built it, it was to let young people know about other opportunities for sports and the college scholarships that are available," Whitmore said. "The outcome is that others are catching on to the wave, too."
Teams started at 10 a.m. Thursday with lessons and moved onto rowing machines to learn how to row and coordinate rowing before getting into the water, where they worked every muscle in their legs and arms until 1 p.m.
Peter Grabowski, chieffinancial officer of AVISPL, built a fairly young team and his team mem-bers have been working together for about 18 months.
Grabowski, a Lakewood Ranch resident, believes that team-building events will help his employees develop ways to recognize each other's strengths and to count on one another in and out of the office.
The rowing might have been the most taxing of any of the events they have done so far, he said.
"None of us really understood how difficult what they were doing really was going to be," said Grabowski, a Lakewood Ranch resident.
Admittedly, the team was sore Friday morning as they arrived at work. Would they be up for it again?
"I'm a leader that likes to challenge my team because I think they're capable of doing a lot more," he said. "Even I have to balance that with the fact that was pretty grueling."
There's no doubt that exposing the team to Manatee County's rowing was a win locally, Whitmore said.
"We are the one United States facility that the World Championships of rowing could come to in 2017," she said. "That's a wonderful thing for a corporation to do for team-building."
Van Dyke will continue to pitch the event to his clients, thanks to the success, but he said the real results won't be known immediately.
"What my hope is that three weeks, three months, a couple years down the road, the client is still going to be discussing this," he said. "The lessons they learn are still going to resonate, and that was our hope with this."
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-525-3192. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.
Toni Whitt, business editor, contributed to this report.