What does Sarasota have to offer?

Every time a planner sits down to organize a tournament, he or she has to ensure they find excellent sports facilities and plenty of activities for players and their families to enjoy, all in one place. It’s a juggling act that can be tricky and even frustrating at times. But it doesn’t have to be. That’s where Sarasota, Florida comes in

Picture palm trees lining the football field or white sandy beaches perfect for volleyball. Those same backdrops can provide the relaxation families are looking for while vacationing on the Gulf of Mexico. Sarasota’s warm climate makes it a perfect destination any time of year for outdoor sports, with excellent facilities for indoor sports as well.

Sarasota is no stranger to hosting large tournaments and has the space for groups of any size. If you’re hoping to hold your next sporting event in a warm, sunny location with world-class facilities, Sarasota has what you’re looking for.

What can you do in Sarasota?

Tournaments are much more than declaring a champion. A major component of sporting events are the activities available for the athletes and their families. You want your participants to both compete at the highest level while making memories to last a lifetime.

Sarasota has excellent options for adventurous travelers looking to take on new challenges. Visitors can try paddleboarding off the Gulf Coast, with training for beginner and advanced boarders. With a dozen different outfits ready to help you start your adventure, you’re sure to find the one right for you. If you’re looking for a little more speed on the water, try wakeboarding with one of the several companies ready to tug you behind a boat at speeds up to 40 mph. Other water activities available include fishing, boating and, of course, swimming at the beach.

After drying off from water activities, visitors can get in touch with nature on land. Spot exotic birds at nature centers or one of the two state parks, or take a cruise to see alligators sunbathing on the banks of the swamp at Myakka River State Park.

For meals and shopping, the bustling downtown area of Sarasota offers antiquing, world-class culinary spots, and several museums and attractions.

X Factors

  • Community engagement/promotions program
  • Athlete discounts
  • Sports event grant program
  • Housing services
  • Site visit planning

Planner Perspective

Sarasota has proven itself to be a top sports destination in the United States, with a great combination of expertise in a variety of sporting events and a real focus on working with events coming into the area.

– AJ Dominique III, USRowing

What kinds of facilities are available in Sarasota?

Nathan Benderson Park

Sports: Rowing, triathlon, canoe and kayak, 5-10K runs, cross country, wakeboard, paddleboard

he brand new Nathan Benderson Park is unlike any venue in the world. With doors opening in 2015, the 600-acre property offers amenities for several land and water sports. The 500-acre lake boasts 10 lanes for rowing and other boat races, with a wave attenuation system, TV lane, coaching lane and starting huts. A full-service boat house is scheduled to be complete by 2018. The 2,000-meter sprint course has hosted the USRowing Masters National Championships and in 2017 will host the FISA World Rowing Championships and a number of other tournaments. For runners, the 5-kilometer track crisscrosses the park for a running experience with scenery like no other. – See more.

Ed Smith Stadium and Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex

Sports: Baseball
he Florida home of the Baltimore Orioles, Ed Smith Stadium, sits in the heart of Sarasota. The field seats 8,000 and includes 4 practice fields. Ed Smith Stadium offers full concession including Cafe ’54 inside the home plate entrance. For tournaments needing more than one field, Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park offers 5 fields of various sizes for different age groups and skill levels. The combined ball fields have hosted the Snowbird College Baseball Classic, Prospect Wire Florida State Finals and Annual Sarasota Baseball Classic. At the O’Neil Complex, spectators can line the foul line fences or sit in the bleachers behind home plate. – See more.

Sarasota Polo Grounds

Sports: Polo, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, rugby, touch and flag football, ultimate Frisbee, cross country
Wide-open spaces make the Sarasota Polo Grounds a dynamic location for several different sporting events. The campus’s comfortable clubhouse and pavilion offer views of the fields. The nine fields offer ample space for any outdoor sport, including two stick and ball fields. Located 20 minutes east of the downtown area, the polo grounds are accessible from many lodging facilities in the city. It has hosted events such as the USA Ultimate National Club Championships and Puma Cup Soccer Tournament. The fields have been a staple in the polo community since opening in 1991 on the historic Lakewood Ranch.

Fox Lea Farm

Sports: Equestrian

Fox_Lea_Farm_jumpA half-hour drive from Sarasota down the coast is Fox Lea Farm in Venice, a first-class equestrian facility since 1983. The farm has amenities for horse jumping, quarter horse, Appaloosa and dressage shows. Tournament spectators will have a perfect view of the shows from the bleachers and pavilions. When they are ready for a bite to eat, they can stop by the cafe, open during show hours. The farm has a main barn, five smaller barns and four paddocks. At the north end of the property is Lake Miniwana, where visitors can fish in between shows, surrounded by a trailer parking and camping area.

Selby Aquatics Center

Sports: Swimming, diving

The YMCA Selby Center is an outdoor swimming center boasting eight lanes with starting blocks and touchpads, timing and start systems, scoreboard and loudspeaker system. A separate diving area allows for synchronized swimming along with single or doubles diving on the dual boards. Swimmers give it their all as spectators cheer them on a few feet away in a 1,200-seat covered bleacher section. Locker rooms are available for swimmers and bathrooms are onsite. Adjacent to the competition pool are a waterslide and aquatic center where visitors can enjoy the Florida sun.

Sarasota BMX Track

Sports: BXM, Strider

The oldest BMX track still running, the Sarasota BMX Track has been home of the 2014 Sunshine State Association BMX State Championship and Annual Strider World Championships, and the track features a facility for riders of all ages. It is currently undergoing a renovation to add an amateur and professional supercross track and eight-meter ramp. Striders have their own specialized track. The track is located just east of the downtown area with parking near the entrance and spectator area around the tracks.

Sarasota County Beaches

Sports: Beach volleyball, long-distance swimming, surfing, canoeing and kayaking, triathlon, paddleboard

The beaches of Sarasota’s barrier islands double as top tourist destinations. White sandy beaches offer the perfect surface for sand volleyball and have hosted the Fiesta on Siesta College Volleyball Tournament. Siesta Key offers 10 permanent courts already and has room for 30 more. The ocean provides competition-ready waves for surfing, and closer to the shore long-distance swimmers and kayakers and canoers can compete at the highest level. The beaches have hosted the Rev3 Triathlon, Suncoast Offshore Super Boat Grand Prix and Stand-up Paddleboard Race Series. Lido Key, Longboat Key and Venice beaches also offer ample space for triathlons. – See more.

Sarasota Lawn Bowling Club

Sports: Lawn bowling

The growing sport of lawn bowling has found a home in Sarasota, which has signed on to host the 2016 and 2017 U.S. Open of Lawn Bowling. The 11-acre complex has been an athletic campus since 1934 as a part of the bigger McAnsh Park. Athletes will find the facility professionally trimmed for top competition. The club, located just a few blocks from the beach on the western side of the Rosemary District, features three full-size fields with ample parking on the west and east sides of the complex.

How do you get there?

A location can have the greatest amenities in the world, but if it is difficult to get to, it could be the talk of the tournament. That’s why a tournament planner looks for places with easy access for athletes from all over. Sarasota, a major metropolis, is easily accessible by air and road.

By Car: With Tampa to the north, several major interstates bottleneck towards Sarasota, including Interstates 4 and 75. I-75 then continues down to Sarasota, where it intersects with Interstate 275. From the east, Florida State Route 60 reaches Sarasota from Vero Beach. Miami residents can take I-75 from the south and travelers from Orlando can take I-4.

By Air: Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, located just north of Sarasota, is serviced by Air Canada, American, Delta, Jet Blue and United airlines. It offers non-stop flights to major cities in the Midwest and East.