MANATEE -- Nathan Benderson Park will host the next six state rowing championship regattas, park officials announced Monday.
The Florida Scholastic Rowing Association, the governing body for youth rowing in Florida, signed a three-year contract with Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, the operating nonprofit of Nathan Benderson Park.
Each event will bring an estimated 1,500 to 3,000 youth rowers and their families.
Two 2016 regattas will mark FSRA's 51st state championship, according to a news release. The regattas are qualifying events for high school rowing teams from Florida looking to compete at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America's national competition. Winners of the national competition will then move on to compete in USRowing's Youth Nationals.
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The first regatta, the FSRA Sculling Championship, will run April 16 to April 17; the second, the FSRA State Sweep Championship, will be held on the last weekend of April. All FSRA member youth teams active during the Florida spring racing season will be invited to participate in the season-ending State Sweep Championship.
Brett Tillotson, president of FSRA and head coach of the Capital City Rowing team based in Tallahassee, said Nathan Benderson Park was the choice for many reasons.
"This venue offers the most accommodations," Tillotson said. "We have an excellent setup there for trainers, there's plenty of water, plenty of hotels and plenty of food options. It just makes it really easy to put on a quality regatta with everything that's there."
In the past, the competitions were held at venues in Tampa and Orlando. While those locations have suitable bodies of water, they are unable to accommodate the growing number of athletes, families and spectators in the ways Nathan Benderson Park can, Tillotson said.
"We look forward to many more years of successful partnership with the Sarasota-Bradenton community and SANCA," said FSRA Regatta Director Brice Crossley. "Not only do we love rowing at the facility, we appreciate the hospitality we always receive and are all eager to return."
Earlier this month, Rob Ferguson, director of sales for the Holiday Inn and Suites and the Fairfield Inn in Lakewood Ranch, told the Herald how much impact the extra business stemming from the area's sports facilities has.
"We're able to give our employees more hours and hire more people," Ferguson said. "Everyone's working real hard and we can always use more; in fact, we've had difficulty hiring people because wages are up and the new mall opened."
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter@jayohday.