Today, there was a Florida Scholastic Rowing Association Sculling Championship event at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota and I photographed a winning team as it crossed the finish line. The facility is slated to become North America’s premier 2,000-meter sprint course and regatta center by 2014. Over $40 million is committed to the facility’s future development, including 2,200 meter racing lanes and straight shorelines by 2013, coaching lanes, wave attenuation, a multi-function boathouse and athlete training center, starting huts and finish towers, grand stands and a state of the art boat maintenance and testing facility. Most of these facilities will be constructed on a first of its kind “regatta island” – an Olympic Village type setting which will provide competitors the support and focus which rowing demands, and spectators a viewing and entertainment platform unparalleled at sprint courses elsewhere in the world.
The Park will also be home to numerous other paddle sport competitions, from dragon boats to canoe and kayak races, as well as triathlon and cross country events. And to top it all off, the Park is located immediately adjacent to University Town Center – Southwest Florida’s premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination.
Nathan Benderson Park is a unique 600-acre park which provides the public access to a 500-acre lake. The county purchased the site in the early 1990’s. Before that, the property had been an active shell excavation pit for road construction fill. Cooper Creek enters the east side of the large lake and exits at the northwest corner.