New FDOT operations center in Manatee still in proposed budgets

skennedy@bradenton.comApril 6, 2014 

MANATEE -- Close to $9 million for a new Florida Department of Transportation operations center in Manatee County has survived winnowing in the Florida Legislature,and remains in both legislative chambers' proposed budgets, a transportation agency official said Friday.

"It was included in approved budgets in the House and Senate," Robin Stublen, communications specialist for the Florida Department of Transportation, said of the $8.951 million request for construction of a new operations center at 13900 State Road 64 E.

It was among various projects that may survive political vetting through the legislature and the governor's office in Tallahassee to benefit Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Earlier this week, the Florida House approved a $75.3 billion budget, while the Florida Senate approved one calling for $74.9 billion.

The operations center, which would be built on FDOT-owned land, would serve Manatee and Sarasota counties. It would replace an existing facility in Sarasota that was built during the 1950s, officials have said.

Other possibilities include $2.5 million for Bradenton's IMG Academy and some of $20 million earmarked for filmmaking in Florida, officials said.

Money for IMG Academy remains in the both chambers' budgets, officials said Friday.

"Our ability to continue growing our economic and community welfare impact on the region hinges on continued development of our campus facilities and amenities," wrote Chip McCarthy, IMG vice president of finance, in an email to the Bradenton Herald.

"As we continue to attract high-level spectator events like the MLS Pre-Season series for which IMG Academy is the Eastern Conference hub, NCAA national

championships, FHSAA state championships, and beyond, our campus needs to scale to accommodate and provide an experience that will keep these premium organizations coming back to the Bradenton area year after year," he said.

One measure state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, is hoping will come to fruition calls for $20 million for filmmaking in Florida.

It has a "set aside" designating that approximately 20 percent of the money would go to "underutilized" counties like Manatee and Sarasota, she said.

"So if you haven't had a movie in the last 12 months, you would get first dibs at the money," she said of S.B. 1640, which addresses entertainment industry issues.

Asked if the measure had a companion in the House, Detert replied she had spoken with House Speaker Will Weatherford and others: "They had some problems with the bill, and now all the problems have gone away," said Detert.

"It should be smooth sailing on that bill," she added.

Money for an international pentathlon event in Bradenton-Sarasota is also in the Senate budget, she said.

"Since it's an international event, we should attract about 10,000 tourists just for that project," said Detert.

"I've always said it was my goal to make this the fun state, and this is part of the fun state," she added.

A new $60 million interchange at University Parkway and Interstate 75 is a "top priority for our entire delegation," said Detert. "I've seen the plans, they're very good, the FDOT has that targeted for top tier funding," she said.

Money for the project will be discussed in coming weeks as the legislature's conference committees work out budget details, she said.

-- The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.

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

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