Manatee commission OKs bid for world rowing championships

skennedy@bradenton.comFebruary 26, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Commission on Tuesday approved a plan to bid for the 2017 world rowing championships.

The bid is being organized by a partnership including Manatee and Sarasota counties and Benderson Development Co.

The estimated budget for Manatee's share of the expenses for the championship through 2017 was listed at $1,104,740; its Sarasota counterpart was listed at $1,159,740, according to county documents.

Commissioners emphasized that no Manatee County property tax money would be used. Rather, the Tourist Development Council, which collects "bed taxes" from visitors, will be picking up the tab.

Attendance could reach 42,000, with 1,213 athletes and 973 coaches and officials from more than 62 nations, according to estimates based upon last year's championships in Bled, Slovenia.

Two other local rowing venues include Manatee County's Fort Hamer Park, and Sarasota County's Blackburn Point Park.

In 2009, a county park near Interstate 75 and University Parkway was renamed in honor of the patriarch of the Benderson Development Co. after the company and the family spent $1 million for naming rights.

Nathan Benderson Park features 200 acres of land and a 400-acre lake, but needed amenities in order to host competitive rowing events.

Two years ago, Sarasota County allocated $20 million in tourism tax dollars to build infrastructure and expand the park's lake to meet world championship standards.

Over the past three years, it has also budgeted $250,000 to help put on regattas there.

Last year, the state provided a grant of $5 million that is paying for a system to limit waves on the lake, ensuring competitive fairness, according to Paul Blackketter, chief operating officer of the SunCoast Aquatic Nature Center Association, a nonprofit corporation established to manage the aquatic center.

With representatives of 130 countries voting, the awarding of the 2017 championships is set for September during a meeting in Chungju, South Korea, Blackketter said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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