MANATEE -- The area took another step closer to winning the right to stage the 2017 World Rowing Championship Monday after an important council notified officials it has recommended Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park for the event.
The 14-member council of the International Federation of Rowing Associations, which oversees the championship event, will recommend Sarasota-Bradenton as its choice for the event, Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle said. He was notified Monday.
“Needless to say, as a member of the team that went to Lucerne to carry our proposal, I am very excited about it, I think it’s fantastic,” said Bustle, who returned recently from Switzerland where he was part of the team lobbying on behalf of the area’s bid.
“I’m so appreciative of the hard work that Paul Blackketter and his team and Mr. Randy Benderson put in,” Bustle continued.
“It’s a great achievement, and we look forward to successful presentation before the FISA Congress in South Korea in September,” he said, referring to the world body that will make the final decision.
Benderson Development Co. executive Blackketter, who led the local delegation from Manatee and Sarasota counties in an effort to win the recommendation, welcomed the news Monday.
“This was a major milestone, however, we still have the Congress to convince,” he cautioned. Blackketter referred to the Congress of the International Federation of Rowing Associations, representing 130 countries, which is slated to make the final decision Sept. 2.
No exact dates for the championship have been mentioned, Blackketter said.
If Sarasota-Bradenton receives the final nod, the event would take place in the last two weeks of September or during the first week of October 2017, at Nathan Benderson Park, he said.
Blackketter heads a nonprofit foundation supporting the two-county public/ private bid.
The event is expected to bring with it a regional economic impact of $25 million or more, officials have said.
Representatives of 130 countries affiliated with the federation will officially award the right to host the championship during a meeting in Chungju, South Korea.
Bustle will represent the Manatee County Commission at the meeting, officials said.
Attendance at the event could reach 42,000, with 1,213 athletes and 973 coaches and officials from more than 62 nations, according to estimates based upon last year’s championships in Bled, Slovenia, the Herald has reported.
In addition to Benderson Park, two other local rowing venues that could benefit include Manatee County’s Fort Hamer Park, and Sarasota County’s Blackburn Point Park.
"It's absolutely huge. The downtown is a major major player with this," said David Gustafson, executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.
Gustafson said it's exciting that Bradenton is only 20 minutes away from Nathan Benderson Park because the city can attract athletes and fans to the city for entertainment.
"We're going to be shipping people over here in buses," he said.
Also, teams could use the area waterways and lakes for training in preparation for the event, he said.
"Any water body bigger than a bathtub will be used for training," he said.
-- Business reporter Charles Schelle contributed to this report. Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.