It was a day after the International Dragon Boat Federation World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand on Aug. 26 and Stephen Rodriguez was wondering if his team had forged enough positive relationships.
Rodriguez, the CEO and president of Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA), had joined representatives of Visit Sarasota and the United States Dragon Boat Federation to make a bid to host the 2022 International Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew World Championships at Nathan Benderson Park.
Part of their job was to promote the Sarasota and Manatee counties area to convince IDBF officials that besides having a world-class rowing venue, they had an elite entertainment hub.
The potential host field had been narrowed to three, and Sarasota was scheduled to present last before the IDBF committee would make its decision. Up first was Montreal, Canada and Budapest, Hungary. Both had hosted the Club Crew World Championships before.
"I will tell you in terms of the competition, we were the new kids on the block," Rodriguez said. "We haven't hosted one and we didn't have the deep-rooted, personal relationships."
Both Canada and Hungary had representatives on the IDBF council, which the U.S. did not. Rodriguez was unsure how it was going to turn out.
In the end, Sarasota landed the bid. The Club Crew World Championships will be held at Nathan Benderson Park in the summer of 2022 which no date set at the moment. Rodriguez said July would be the best month to host, but he has no control over that decision.
What he does know is that Sarasota will be hosting an event likely to draw 6,000 participants and more than twice as many total visitors to the area. The 2018 event in Hungary drew 6,300 athletes in a growing sport.
"We focused on a few key points," Rodriguez said. "We were selling No. 1 our accessibility to our facility. Most of these type of facilities are in the middle of nowhere. We have airports, I-75, and we're in the middle of the UTC entertainment district."
Rodriguez said his committee stressed that 30% (approximately 800) of the hotel rooms needed for the event will be within a five-minute drive of the park. He said it was a big selling point.
And the committee also stressed the overall experience of coming to the area, such as Disney World or other attractions at "arm's length."
Beside those major factors, Rodriguez stressed SANCA's experience hosting major events, such as the 2017 World Rowing Championships and the 2019 Under 23 World Rowing Championships.
He said it was important to the IDBF the Sarasota hosted events in the last two years hadn't lost a single athlete to an international event due to a VISA problem.
The U.S. landed 10 votes from the IDBF council while Hungary had nine votes and Canada had four.
In terms of marketing value, Rodriguez said the Club Crew World Championships will have a much great economic impact than the IDBF World Championships, which features only national boats and not club teams. That means more visitors to the area.
"This is the best of both worlds and could be the largest event (in terms of participants) we've had at this park," Rodriguez said.
He emphasized the athletes will be competing all through a week of events so the stay of each competitor could average more than 10 days. He said Visit Sarasota has estimated conservatively an economic impact of more than $20 million for the area.
Area residents will be asked to contribute about 300 to 400 volunteers for the event.
Nathan Benderson Park also will host the 2021 U.S. Dragon Boat Federation (USDBF) National Championships.
The 2020 Club Crew World Championships will be held in Aix-les-Bains, France,.
Mike Thomas, the IDBF’s president, said “members are all looking forward to racing in Nathan Benderson Park, with its superb facilities.”