MANATEE -- More work is needed on a preliminary bid to stage the 2017 World Rowing Championship although an international team evaluating the proposal was complimentary about the area after a site visit, a top official said Thursday.
The site selection team, which departed Thursday, was particularly impressed with governmental cooperation and the overall enthusiasm for the project, said Paul Blackketter, who served as tour guide for the evaluation visit.
"Overall, they were impressed with our area, most impressed with our partnership," Blackketter said. A public-private partnership was formed to recruit the event to Sarasota's Nathan Benderson Park.
Suggestions for improvement: change the park layout and alter plans for a starting line platform yet to be built, Blackketter said.
"All easy changes," he said Thursday.
The four-man evaluation team, which departed Thursday, toured Manatee and Sarasota counties, with particular scrutiny of Benderson Park amenities.
They also said the final bid document should include weather equipment.
"We will need to install weather stations on site, per (Fédération Internation
ale des Sociétés d'Aviron) regulations, to get accurate weather readings," Blackketter said.
FISA, the international governing body for the sport of rowing, will choose the championship site.
"Overall, I feel confident, but never complacent," said Blackketter.
"We will continue to work hard to deliver the bid by the end of June -- an extension made by FISA, and not our committee."
Blackketter said the Manatee-Sarasota coalition was prepared to submit its bid by the end of May but "will wisely take the additional time."
More analysis will be done as part of the process, said Dave Gustafson, executive director for Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority.
"I think FISA was very excited at what they saw, and especially the commitment," said Gustafson.
"It was very evident to them, and it was extremely important the municipalities and counties are on the same page."
The partnership forged between Manatee and Sarasota counties, Benderson Development Co. and a nonprofit foundation was a "crucial" component of the bid, Gustafson said.
"The cooperation between both counties -- that will only help us out on many, many more opportunities," he said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.