SARASOTA - The Pan-American Masters Championship swimming event wraps up Thursday with an open water swim at Siesta Key Beach. This is the first time the United States has hosted the two-week event, and organizers say Sarasota was a perfect location, and the event was a huge success.
With more than 1,700 participants, and half of them coming from outside the country, event organizers say the Pan-American Championships not only gave a big boost to the Suncoast's economy, but also boosted the spirits of everyone who participated.
26 countries are represented at the event, which was held at the Selby Aquatic Center on Potter Park Drive in Sarasota. Thursday morning, swimmers hit the beach at Siesta Key as the event wrapped up with an open water swim.
According to officials with the United States Masters swimming, over 4,000 local hotel rooms were booked over the course of the two week event, with a lot of people staying the entire month of June.
The championships are held every other year, and these are the fifth games. Organizers say while many serious competitors come out, the event is really all about fun. “When you see anyone who's 18 years old, or 90 years old, get out of the water, and the first thing you see is they're getting high fives and hugs, regardless of what time they went, it's a very special, warm feeling inside,” says Rob Butcher, executive director of United States Masters Swimming.
U.S. Masters swimming invested over $750,000 worth of improvements at Selby Aquatic Center, and organizers say it's now positioned to go for other national and international events.