CLERMONT – At the end of this month, nearly 200 elite synchronized swimmers will gather at the National Training Center in Clermont for the 2011 U.S. Junior Synchronized Swimming Championships. It’s an event that demonstrates once again that Lake County, despite being far more rural than neighboring counties like Orange and Polk, has plenty to offer sports fans.
“Absolutely,” said Kathy Pagan, Lake County’s tourism specialist. “Clermont is the central place for triathlons. We have them all the time, and they’re very well attended and highly regarded, and we also have softball there now and atheletes are coming from all around the area to play here.”
The Swimming Championships are a good example of the county’s appeal to the world of sports. Held March 31-April 1, the event will feature athletes between the ages of 15-18 who will vie for Junior National Titles in the solo, duet, team and combo events.
The elite junior championship will be hosted by the Central Florida Sport Commission and the Lake County Economic Development and Tourism office. This marks the second time the event has been held in Clermont, and top routines from the 2011 U.S. Junior Championships will advance to the 2011 U.S. National Championships next month.
“The Central Florida Sports Commission and Lake County are proud to once again host the U.S. Junior Synchronized Swimming Championships,” said Sam Stark, president of the Central Florida Sports Commission. “The National Training Center’s first-class facility and Lake County’s natural setting will serve as an outstanding backdrop for this prestigious event.”
“We’re very happy they’re coming back to Clermont,” Pagan added.
Tickets can be purchased at the door. Admission for Friday’s competition will be $10 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens. Tickets for Saturday will be $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens. A complete schedule will be posted at www.usasynchro.org. Results will be hosted on the site during the event.
While this event demonstrates the lure that Lake County has to athletes, it’s not the only example. As Pagan noted, Lake County’s wide open fields are a welcome sight to golf fans.
“We have a lot of golf elite events at the Mission Inn Resort,” she said of the popular resort at Howey-In-The-Hills.
“We get queries from far and wide about using our facilities in Lake County,” Pagan said, adding that the county often hosts overflow events from the nearby Walt Disney Wide World of Sports facility.
“Sometimes they don’t have enough ball fields, so they work with the National Training Center here,” Pagan said. “Sports is a wonderful market for us. It has been a strong market, a stabilized market, for years.”
As word gets out about what Lake County has to offer, more and more teams have been inquiring about booking space here, she said.
“It’s gaining ground, which is sort of against the (economic) trend right now,” she said. “I think sometimes families may not spend as much money these days going camping, but they never neglect their kids’ sports. They are here for the competitions, they are here to cheer on their children, they come out for everything from golf to lacrosse to soccer.”
Other popular spots for sports activity in Lake County include Hickory Point Recreational Facility on State Road 19 in Tavares – “Soccer is huge in that area,” Pagan said – and the Sleepy Hollow Recreation Complex in Leesburg.
“Sleepy Hollow is a wonderful sports venue for softball,” Pagan said.
And, not surprisingly, Lake County – with an abundance of lakes – is very popular with people who enjoy water skiing. Clermont even hosts the Swiss Ski School at 13114 Skiing Paradise Boulevard.
“They train people from all over the world that are in competition,” Pagan said. “They love this area. They come here year round. They have a wonderful clientele following in the highest tradition of water skiing.”
There are also homegrown champions practicing at Hanson’s World Wakeboard Center in Groveland, which also hosts glider competitions, including the Senior Soaring Glider Competitions.
“Seniors come from around the world for that,” Pagan said. “We have events for all ages.”
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