Officials, rowers, dedicate new training facility at Fort Hamer in Manatee

MANATEE -- Local officials and rowing enthusiasts this morning dedicated a new training facility at the heart of efforts to make the region a mecca for the sport.

Harry Parker, the legendary rowing coach at Harvard University, said the Fort Hamer facility on the Manatee River will draw teams from all over. About 180 members of the Harvard team are here this week.

"We're truly impressed by the efforts made by Manatee and Sarasota," Parker said. "We are looking forward to coming here for many years to train, and we're sure the word will spread and you will have many more teams coming here to train."

The centerpiece of the $825,000 in improvements to Fort Hamer Park is a new 8,000-square-foot boathouse. Installation of the pre-fabricated building was completed just Thursday night.

Two Harvard team members, Mick Malowany, 19, of Toronto, and Nolan Pollock, 19, of northern Virginia, said training conditions along the Manatee River are better than what they experienced while training last year in Miami.

In Miami, between the skyscrapers, it was windy and the water was choppy. But here, the waters are calm and flat, they said.

Most of the members of the Manatee and Sarasota county commissions were at this morning's ceremonies.