MANATEE -- A delegation representing Manatee and Sarasota counties is leaving this week for Switzerland, where members will make a pivotal presentation pitching the area as the site for the 2017 World Rowing Championship.
The delegation will carry a letter of support from President Barack Obama, and one from Congress, said Paul Blackketter, who heads the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Association, a nonprofit foundation supporting the two-county bid to stage the event. The public-private partnership trip is in support of its formal bid to play host to the championship.
"We appreciate everyone's support, and the partnership has just been incredible between the two counties," said Blackketter. "And we also have a tremendous amount of support from the state level, the governor."
Some delegates plan to leave Wednesday from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport or Tampa International Airport, while others will depart during later in the week, said Blackketter, who spearheaded the mission to Zurich and Lucerne, Switzerland.
The delegation includes Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle, Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, tourism chief Elliott Falcione and Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston in addition to Blackketter.
The delegation also includes President Randy Benderson of Benderson Development, Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta, Sarasota County Administrator Randy Reid and Nicole Rissler, director of sports for the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Glenn Merry, chief executive officer of USRowing, the U.S. national rowing organi
zation, and Mara Ford, director of operations for the U.S. Rowing Foundation, are also in the delegation.
"Five or six will be presenting Sunday, and we do have our packets all ready to go," Falcione said. "What's exciting is the organizing committee has worked hard to get to this point and we're ready for the presentation.
"It's time to get in the batter's box and show why the Bradenton-Sarasota community is the best place for the 2017 World Rowing Championship," he said.
The delegation will attempt to persuade the 14-member council of the International Federation of Rowing Associations to choose Sarasota-Bradenton over a competing bid from Bulgaria.
"It will be making a recommendation about a site a week or so afterward," said Blackketter.
The final decision will be made Sept. 2 when representatives of 130 countries affiliated with the federation will officially award the 2017 championship during a meeting in Chungju, South Korea.
A visiting federation team in April inspected the venue at Sarasota's Benderson Park at Interstate 75 and University Parkway.
The Switzerland trip will last less than a week. Expenses for the Manatee County contingent will be paid for by visitor bed taxes administered by the Manatee Tourism Development Council. Bustle's base airline ticket price, for example, was $1,544, according to county records. Last winter, Manatee County's share of the costs for the championship was expected to be $1,104,740 over a five-year period, with $277,000 allocated for 2013.
Manatee County and Sarasota County commissioners later approved a guarantee up to $2.782 million each.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.