June 3, 2023

Sports Tourism

Clermont Is on the Fast Track

Communities around Florida are vying for the millions spent by amateur athletes who travel to train and compete. Tiny Clermont -- pop. 23,000 -- has made itself the epicenter of the state's sports tourism industry.

Amy Keller | 7/1/2009


» Star Coaches

Former Olympic softball gold medalist Dot Richardson says fast-pitch softball players appreciate the remote control scoreboards, spacious dugouts and stadium field at the NTC complex.

Former NCAA All American swimmer Sara McLarty is a triathlon coach, master’s swimming coach and camp organizer at NTC. She is also training to compete as a triathlete in the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

Gymnast Brandy Johnson, a member of the 1988 Olympic team, operates a gymnastics facility on the campus. [Photos: Kelly LaDuke]
The National Training Center hasn’t hit its stride without a few stumbles. USA Triathlon’s plans to relocate its national headquarters to the facility stalled, and in 2005 the organization ended its partnership with South Lake Hospital and pulled its name off the training center. While both organizations say the split was amicable, insiders at USA Triathlon say Richardson’s expanded focus for the center bothered some of its officials, who felt that the facility should focus exclusively on running, swimming and biking. Adding to their disappointment, they say, was a lack of administrative office space for their organization, and the National Training Center’s refusal to pay more to feature USA Triathlon’s name. “Our brand was worth a lot more than what the training center was willing to pay,” says Sommer, who sat on the board of directors of USA Triathlon when the relationship “got off the tracks.”

Loaring, the professional triathlete and coach from Canada, says increased costs have dampened some triathletes’ enthusiasm for the Clermont center. “A private coach like myself has to pay a very hefty fee — it’s $20 per athlete for use of the facility for an hour — that’s been a bit of a deterrent and caused some camps to go elsewhere.”

In addition, the rapid growth around Clermont has changed the feel of the area. Once a “hidden gem,” Clermont now has more traffic both on its “bike-friendly” roads and in the lanes of the center’s swimming pool, says Loaring, who’s been going to Clermont for about a dozen years.

Despite the costs and the crowds, Loaring says his yearly sojourns to south Lake County will continue. “I know it’s caused some camps to go elsewhere, but because of the Orange Grove Trail and Lake Louisa and the rolling hills that Clermont has to offer, it hasn’t cost them too many people. For a winter getaway, Clermont’s just about at the top of the list.”

Tags: Dining & Travel, Central, North Central, Education

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