SARASOTA -- Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday reaffirmed his commitment to Nathan Benderson Park as a rowing venue as international rowing officials are deciding if Sarasota-Manatee will host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
Scott, who once vetoed funding for the rowing park, attended a VIP gathering at the park Thursday morning during the U.S. Rowing Masters National Championship where he left open the door for more public money to be committed to the project.
“It makes sense,” Scott said about now supporting the venue.
Scott said he will “always look at every project” for public funding.
“What I focus on is making sure we can get a return,” Scott told the Bradenton Herald. “As long as we can get a return for taxpayers, I’m interested in these projects.”
The state budgeted $5 million in this year’s budget to fund continued construction for the rowing venue. The state also previously committed another $5 million to the park.
Sarasota County Commission committed $19.5 million in tourist development taxes, or bed taxes paid by hotel guests, to Benderson Park, which included $8.5 million for dredging and filling the lake to build Regatta Island; and $11 million for landscaping and park amenities. The boathouse, rowing officials towers and grandstands are to be paid by private donations through the non-profit Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, which organizes rowing in the two-county area.
Officials from the International Rowing Federation, or FISA, are in attendance at Benderson Park this weekend to give one last look before deciding Sept. 2 if the venue will be awarded both the 2016 World Rowing Cup and 2017 World Rowing Championships. Sarasota County estimates a $24-million economic impact in its county for the 10-day event.
U.S. Rowing CEO Glenn Merry is confident the World Rowing Championships will be awarded to Sarasota-Manatee.
“We will secure the vote to bring the championships here,” Merry said.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.