Senate budget cuts funds for Manatee-Sarasota rowing park to $1 million

jdela@bradenton.comApril 26, 2013 

The hope for state funding for the rowing facility at Nathan Benderson Park remains alive but significantly pared down from an amount once expected to be $5 million.

Lawmakers have until May 3 to pass a proposed $74 billion budget.

Budget negotiations are still under way but in the latest versions of Florida House and Senate budget bills Thursday, only $1 million is now earmarked for the rowing park in the Senate bill.

There is no money for the rowing park in the House bill.

The bills are now in the hands of appropriations committee chairs state Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City.

Kathy Galea, aide to state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said the Senate originally set aside $2.5 million for the Sarasota-Bradenton World Aquatic Sports Center. In negotiations with the House this week, the allocation was trimmed to $1 million, but House negotiators would not budge.

Paul Blackketter, executive director of planning at Benderson Development, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Supporters of the rowing park have begun a social media campaign to raise awareness and drum up support for the park, which is the centerpiece of a bid to land the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority sent out a mass e-mail Thursday urging people to "like" the park's Facebook page. As of 6 p.m. Thursday, the page,, had 2,377 "likes."

The DDA claims the center will be able to play host to international rowing, canoe/kayak and Olympic triathlon events. It estimates the 2017 world championships would have a $24 million economic impact on the area, attracting 42,000 visitors, filling 40,000 room nights in hotels and attract 130 million television and Internet viewers worldwide.

The rowing park already the site for state high school and collegiate competitions, is near the intersection of Interstate 75 and University Parkway. A delegation from the International Federation of Rowing Associations toured the area last week to evaluate the facility as a possible location for the 2017 world championships. Benderson Park's main competition is a rowing site in Bulgaria. The decision will be announced in September during a meeting in Chungju, South Korea.

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