When Meredith Scerba arrived from Cleveland to become the 2017 World Rowing Championships’ executive director, she was in unfamiliar territory.
Scerba was used to pulling off large events in a bigger city like Cleveland, but saw fear and uncertainty for the Benderson Park event taking place Sept. 24-Oct. 1.
So she began educating two months into her new role.
On Monday, Scerba continued educating when she gave an update on the World Rowing Championships during a luncheon with the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce at IMG Academy Golf Club.
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In her remarks, Scerba provided updates on continued development of the park, including construction of the finish tower; revenue projections; recruitment of volunteers; and the diverging diamond interchange being built nearby at Interstate 75 and University Parkway.
Scerba said the new diverging diamond interchange, which costs $74.5 million and is federally funded, is almost two months ahead of schedule. Prince Contracting LLC is completing the project.
They’re getting rewarded for the days they are done early, and they will be fined for the days that they are passed. So there’s a great incentive for them to get this done.
World Rowing Championships executive director Meredith Scerba
“They’re getting rewarded for the days they are done early, and they will be fined for the days that they are past,” Scerba said. “So there’s a great incentive for them to get this done.”
There are roughly 1,700 athletes expected to compete and they will use a bus system. Parking for the event is scheduled for the north end of Benderson Park to accommodate about 4,000 vehicles. The south end is getting used for any parking overflow.
Michael Gallen, vice president of public policy and small business for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, said the community is coming together for the event.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that both Sarasota County and Manatee County ... have been working on this for years,” Gallen said. “This isn’t just an event that just sparked up.”
Scerba said the facilities are progressing. The lone structure needed to meet the World Rowing Federation’s bid standards is the finish tower, which will feature six floors and cost about $8 million, which came from private donations and is a Benderson Park initiative. The target date for its completion is the end of April.
“That gives us plenty of months to really to get in there and perfect everything,” Scerba said.
Officials with the federation, or FISA from the French, previously came to check out Benderson Park’s rowing facility and course in October. They won’t be back until June 9-11.
That weekend doubles with the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals, which is a test event to show FISA that the World Championships will run smoothly. Part of that test event is utilizing the finish tower, volunteer program, ticket sales and competition traffic flow of the boats with FISA present.
Scerba said they’ve reached 70 percent of their revenue goals for the event. Scerba said they asked the Florida Legislature for $500,000. She said they won’t know if they’ll receive it until April.
$500,000Funding amount asked for the 2017 World Rowing Championships to the Florida legislature.
“It’s kind of far-fetched for us,” Scerba said. “We put it out there, because you just put out as much against the wall as you can to see what sticks. ... We would rather have corporate partnerships, because corporate partnerships give people an opportunity to come down and activate, and give them a chance to be in front of a large number of spectators, give them a chance to spread the brand, especially local brands.”
70Percentage of revenue goals reached so far for the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
From a staffing and volunteer perspective, there are 12 full-time staffers combining with an expected 2,000 volunteers for the event. Scerba said they have more than 800 registered volunteers.
“We’re looking to get that last 1,000 in the next six months,” Scerba said.
- April: Finish tower completed; state legislature decision on $500,000 funding
- June: FISA’s next on-site visit
- July: Diverging diamond interchange early completion target
- Sept. 30-Oct. 1: World Rowing Championships at Benderson Park
- Ongoing: volunteers, vendors, grandstands and operational planning.