CLERMONT, FL-South Lake Hospital, anxious to showcase this Orlando bedroom community to the world, has broken ground on a $7.5-million, 150-acre national training center for global athletes participating in international triathlon events.

The site is 25 miles west of Downtown Orlando.

Tied in with the campus project, the Atlantic Hotel Group of Atlanta plans to build Champions Inn, a 153-room hotel catering to both athletes and the general public. The campus and the hotel are expected to be completed by year-end 2001.

The main 40,000-sf activity building on the campus will also house the new headquarters of USA Triathlon Inc., the sport’s governing body that will be relocating here from Colorado Springs, CO.

Also being planned is a $4-million field house for track and field events. No ground-breaking date for that project has been announced.

The first Great Floridian Triathlon took place in Clermont on Oct. 26, 1991. The 10th annual event was completed Oct. 21-22 with 900 international athletes competing. The highest attendance was 1,048 in 1998.

The Great Floridian Triathlon bills itself as the world’s largest independent iron-distance event. The competition comprises a 2.4-mile swim; a 112-mile bicycle ride; and a 26.2-mile run.

The event pumps about $1 million into the local economy.

Clermont, a citrus-growing area in south Lake County, has a permanent population of 20,000 but swells to 50,000 during the winter tourist season. Local residents will be eligible to use the campus facilities for an annual fee.

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