MANATEE -- Gov. Rick Scott is slated to visit Sarasota's Nathan Benderson Park on Thursday as it hosts its first national rowing championship event.
The governor is scheduled to arrive as athletes competing in the USRowing Masters National Championships begin racing, according to officials of the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Competitive racing is set for Thursday through Sunday, with the park expecting about 6,000 athletes, officials, coaches and spectators.
The governor will be welcomed by a local delegation at a hospitality tent on Regatta Island at the 600-acre park, officials said.
Among those expected to greet the governor will be Glenn Merry, chief executive officer at USRowing, the national governing body recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee and designated in charge of rowing.
"The more involvement we have from the political side, the better it is for the sport because they're needed to help with permits, permissions, funding obstacles,"
Merry said Monday. "As with any project, it's beneficial to have the people in charge have some buy-in, so it benefits their constituents."
Merry expects his meeting with Scott to be mostly social, but he also hopes to discuss the sport's growth in Florida, and the Sunshine State's unique position at the forefront of rowing in the U.S.
A local public-private partnership, including Manatee and Sarasota counties, has submitted a formal bid to host the 2017 World Rowing Championship at the park at Interstate 75 and University Parkway.
The International Federation of Rowing Associations, representing 136 countries, is expected to choose a site for the world championship Sept. 2 in Chungju, S. Korea.
Benderson Park remains under construction as officials build the infrastructure needed for world-class competitive rowing.
The governor's $74.5 billion 2014 budget includes $5 million for improvements to Benderson Park, which also received a $5 million state allocation in 2013.
"What a great opportunity for the region to be able to showcase Nathan Benderson Park to the governor of our beautiful state," said Elliott Falcione, the convention bureau's executive director. "We are excited to have the opportunity to thank the governor for his ongoing support of one of the top aquatic centers in the western hemisphere."
The governor understands the value of the rowing effort, said Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle.
"My understanding is he's coming just to support the rowing venue, he sees the value, he knows we're just around the corner, hopefully, from being selected," said Bustle. "He wants to throw his weight behind us."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.