If you’re looking for a sunny spot for a sporting event, start your search with Sarasota. About an hour south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota offers hot summers, warm winters, an abundance of event facilities – and some of the most popular beaches south of the Mason-Dixon.
Sarasota’s setting makes it a natural for water sports, but that’s not its only claim to fame. As baseball fans well know, the city’s Ed Smith Stadium is the spring training home base of the Baltimore Orioles. It’s also the home of the Gulf Coast League Orioles. And the roster of tournaments in the Sarasota area keeps on growing, encompassing softball, equestrian events, swimming, tennis, golf and other sports. In 2013 the F18 International Sailing Regatta, USRowing Masters National Championships, Rev3Triathlon Florida and Pan-American Masters Swimming Championship were just a few of the city’s sporting events.
Sarasota’s latest bragging right—it has been chosen to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
Nathan Benderson Park
The park, selected as the site of the 2017 World Rowing Championships, is home to an internationally-acclaimed, 2,000-meter sprint course, plus all the facilities your group needs to row, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, wake board, water ski and dragon boat. This premier aquatic center can also be used for triathlons, adaptive sports and 5-10k runs.
YMCA Selby Aquatic Center
It’s the place to go for diving, swimming, synchronized swimming and water polo. This outdoor facility’s highlights include a 50-meter pool, a scorer’s observation deck, an electronic scoreboard, covered bleachers, two moveable bulkheads and four diving boards.
Ed Smith Stadium
Also known as the “home away from home” of the Baltimore Orioles, this stadium offers five major league training fields, one practice field, a covered batting tunnel, a clubhouse and seating for 8,000 spectators.
Sarasota Polo Grounds
It’s the perfect place to host polo, and so much more. At 130 acres, there’s room for soccer, rugby, flag football, lacrosse, field hockey and ultimate Frisbee competitions. Other amenities include a clubhouse, a covered open-air pavilion and a playground for younger guests.
Siesta Key Beach
More than just a pretty beach, it’s got enough acreage for a pavilion, five tennis courts and 10 full-sized beach volleyball courts – plus space for up to 30 more. Its sandy shores are a great place to host beach volleyball or beach soccer, and the ocean’s waves are there for canoeing, paddle boarding, fishing, windsurfing and adventure racing.
The Resort at Longboat Key Club Tennis Gardens
Where else can you get 20 USTA tennis courts in a facility that overlooks the bay and seats 2,500? This complex also offers a clubhouse, an on-site restaurant and locker rooms.
Youth Athletic Complex
Need a place where you can host a multi-sport event? The Youth Athletic Complex is set up to cater to BMX biking, baseball, youth and flag football, lacrosse and tennis.
Fox Lea Farms
Room for seven outdoor rings and one indoor ring – plus 250 permanent stalls – makes this Sarasota’s finest equestrian event center.
Miss Sarasota Softball/17th Street Park
This facility features 10 softball fields, an archery range and four soccer/multipurpose fields. Use it to host an event dedicated to archery, softball, lacrosse, soccer or any combination thereof.
Attractions and Accommodations
Besides the beaches in Sarasota and its offshore islands, visitor attractions include Mote Aquarium, GWIZ—The Science Museum, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, and John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on the estate of the famed owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Staying in the area gives your group a wide choice of lodging options. Whether you need a parcel of suites in a beachfront hotel, a cozy vacation rental or a luxury-filled weekend at a resort, you’ll find them here. There is also a good mix of familiar mid- and budget-priced chain hotels and upscale boutique lodgings.
Getting Here and Getting Around
Getting to Sarasota isn’t a problem, whether you are coming by car or by plane. If your group is driving down, Sarasota is right off I-75, 60 miles south of Tampa and 75 miles north of Fort Myers. Sarasota shares an airport with nearby Bradenton, aptly named the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. At the time of this writing, Delta, AirTran, JetBlue, and US Airways operated flights out of this airport. Nearby air travel options include Tampa International Airport (about 50 miles north) and Orlando International Airport (about 130 miles to the northeast).