If the 2017 World Rowing Championships were the Super Bowl of rowing, the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 World Championships could be compared to the college football national championship.
That’s how Stephen Rodriguez, the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA) president, describes the two events, the latter which will be held July 24-28 at Nathan Benderson Park.
The Under 23 World Championships are filled with Olympic hopefuls.
But is age the only difference between the two events?
In terms of scope, Rodriguez and SANCA know this event will be smaller in stature than the 2017 championships, which represent the annual pinnacle of the sport. That is reflected by looking at the huge countdown clock that was unveiled for the world championships or by noticing how many volunteer recruitment events were held by SANCA in 2017.
SANCA released data that the 2017 event sold 42,000 spectator tickets, featured athletes from 69 countries and generated 25,491 hotel nights in Manatee and Sarasota counties, with 1,300 volunteers helping it run.
There is no countdown clock for the Under 23 World Championships and the event generates less global buzz.
Still, the U23 event has significant impact. Rodriguez said 1,000 representatives (rowers and crew members) from 40 countries will be on hand. Rodriguez said those people will account for 5,600 hotel nights. SANCA Communications Manager Douglas Jessmer said the event has 1,500 total volunteer shifts, and 63% of those have been filled, as of July 13. The economic impact on Sarasota-Bradenton will be determined after the event.
The U23s may be smaller, but Rodriguez promises they will be worth watching, even with no alumni from local crews competing. It is the first time the event has been held outside of Europe in its 43-year history. Spectators can watch the event for free along the park’s west bank or at the starting line near the south point, options that were not available during the 2017 event. The only ticketed part of the venue will be Regatta Island, where the grandstands and beach picnic tables are. Those tickets will cost $20 and cover all five days of competition. Public parking is available north of Cattleman Road, across from Regatta Island. Parking is $5 per car.
“We did not want to limit attendance based on the price of a ticket,” Rodriguez said. “We want people to see these rowers on a world stage. These are the future biggest names in the sport. In what other sport do you have a chance to see a world championship (in this area)? These athletes are going to be showing off their skills.”
Rodriguez said the event will be streamed online on ESPN3.
Interested volunteers can sign up at worldunder23.com. Volunteers get free entry to the ticketed section of the venue, a free T-shirt and a to-be-determined special gift. Volunteers must be 14 or older. The event counts for Bright Futures scholarship hours, Jessmer said, if local students need them. Jessmer said people who are multilingual are especially encouraged to volunteer.
At the 2018 U23s, the United States earned five gold medals to lead the field. Italy captured the most overall medals with 12.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.