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Benderson Park, A World Class Water Sport Center

The starter’s gun fires. The drummers beat begins and the rowers ‘dig’ in the water. The event is a Dragon Boat Race, one of many regularly scheduled competitions at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida.

This canoe-like watercraft has a dragon head totem at the bow, an aft-facing drummer immediately behind it, pairs of rowers who ‘dig’ with their t-topped paddles in time with the beat, a ‘steerer’ and a dragon’s tail icon aft. One standard configuration consists of a crew of 20 (ten pairs) of paddlers, although an 80 person crew is not unkown.

The 600-acre park which has a 500-acre lake as its centerpiece with six or more 2,200-meter racing lanes, grandstands an athlete training center and a multi-use boathouse.

It was Nathan Benderson (1917-2012) president of the international development company bearing his name who convinced the county of the opportunity presented by having a world class rowing venue in Sarasota. As a result, the park has been manufactured* from what was a group of partially flooded ‘borrow pits’ that had been used by Sarasota County for fill.

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Nathan Benderson Park is a world class Sport Center that began hosting organized regatta competitions in 2009 with college rowing teams. Regatta facilities elsewhere in Florida can only host two boats at a time in the water. This recreational venue also provides for community rowing (youth, adults and seniors), adaptive rowing (disabled veterans, youth/adults with mental and physical disabilities, corporate events, training and practice for junior and collegiate crews, local, regional, national and international regattas.

Its more than rowing however, it is fishing, bird-watching, stand-up paddle boards, outdoor concerts, weddings, cross-country sports, bicycle and running paths, workout stations, reflective Zen gardens, a butterfly garden, outdoor restaurants, new boat launch and dock and a view of other amenities.

Events regularly held at the facility include the The US Rowing Masters Championships, Florida State Rowing Association State Championships and the Southeast Regional Youth Rowing Championships. With the goal of hosting the World Rowing Championships in 2017, the facility has been designed with the approval of the international governing body for rowing (FISA). Nathan Benderson Park will also be a highly used by the community, with parking for cars and trailers, a grandstand, restrooms, walking trails, discovery zones and more. It will be a staple in the community for both tourism and recreational opportunities.

The facility is easily accessible with an international airport located about five miles away. The park is located off Honore Avenue, west of 1-75. It is also close to the University Town Center mall that has 220,000 square feet of retail space. This is a premier destination for shopping, dining and entertainment in Southwest Florida.

Driving directions: Direction to Nathan Benderson Park from the NORTH:

  • From I-75 take University Parkway, Exit 213.
  • Drive WEST on University Parkway approx. 0.3 miles.
  • Turn SOUTH (left) onto North Cattlemen Road (traffic light).
  • Drive approx 0.5 miles, following signs and pass thru 3 traffic circles.
  • Continue SOUTH on North Cattlemen Road to the Regatta Island.
  • Rowing facility will be on your right.

Direction to Nathan Benderson Park from the SOUTH:

  • From I-75 take Fruitville Road, Exit 210.
  • Drive WEST on Fruitville Road. approx. 0.2 miles.
  • Turn NORTH (right) on North Cattlemen Road (traffic light).
  • Drive approx 2.2 miles to the Regatta Island.
  • Rowing facility will be on your left.

*Dredged, bulldozed, landscaped and otherwise reconfigured.

Copyright © Leland Desmon, for One Image Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher.

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