Rocking the Boat

The 2017 World Rowing Championships are Coming to Town

We chatted with Meredith Scerba, executive director of the 2017 World Rowing Championships, about organizing an international sporting event.

By Hannah Wallace November 30, 2016 Published in the December 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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“This is the first time in 23 years this event has been in the United States. It’s 40,000 visitors from 60-plus countries and a $25 million economic impact. There will be nine different international television stations, plus domestic ones, showing what [Nathan Benderson Park] is all about. We’re the only Grade A rowing facility in the U.S. This is our chance to put Sarasota-Manatee on the map internationally.”

“You have operations—transportation, volunteers, tents, layout, power, technology—plus fund raising, marketing, the actual competition, and then managing the visitor experience. We have 10 employees, plus a couple of contractors and executives on loan, 75 people on our organizing committee, and we’ll need 2,000 volunteers. We have a full-time member working on just athlete services—visas, translators, everything that’s required just to get the athletes here.”

“We’re meeting with Homeland Security, we’re figuring out the traffic plans, the security elements, the medical plans, evacuation thoughts, if there’s rain. But what the public sees is supposed to look effortless. Like the little duck that’s all calm on top of the water, but you’re paddling like hell underneath.”

“Rowing is 2,000 meters, so we want this to be an all-day experience for fans. The seating is literally beach seating—people can put their feet in the sand, and we’ll have in-seat service and a giant screen. We’re going to have bands, a beer garden, entertainment, games. Every night, we’re sending people to a different event—on St. Armands, downtown Sarasota, Bradenton Riverwalk—and we’ve even set up a brewery hop, so that visitors get to see the special places in our region. When people aren’t watching the competition, we want them out spending their money.”

“I love Sarasota-Manatee. I came here in October 2015, and I didn’t know much about the region; it’s such a gem. Being new to town, I’m taking the same journey as my visitors will. And there are so many cool things to see and do.”

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