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Rowing facility may mean millions

BRADENTON — Developing a world-class rowing facility off Cattleman Road could mean millions of dollars for Manatee and Sarasota counties.

That’s according to Paul Blackketter, project supervisor for the Benderson Development Co., which is developing the facility. Blackketter told county commissioners Tuesday about future development plans for the site. The master plan is expected to be approved in July and once the facility is completed, it will be a major economic engine for both counties, he said.

In 2009, two regattas were held at the current bare bones facility and brought in $2.3 million. This year there has been four events with more than 32,000 attendees using 3,400 hotel room nights and bringing in more than $4 million, he said.

Once the planned facility is competed sometime in 2012, an estimated 10-12 regattas are expected to be held.

“This venue will offer any type of rowing from collegial to world-class events,” Blackketter said.

At the workshop meeting, commissioners also received a status report on economic development opportunities at Port Manatee and the North County overlay district from Manatee County Project Manager Dave Gustafson with the county planning department.

Gustafson said several land owners are interested in taking advantage of the port development encouragement zone and some outside the zone want to be included. Land owners in the zone who create port-related businesses receive fast-track approval.

Staff members of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization gave a presentation on the 2035 long-range transportation plan for both counties.

The plan outlined the eight corridors where studies indicated logical origin-destination points and what types of transportation would work in those areas.

For example, the island’s corridor consists of roads that cannot be widened so maintenance of the roadway and enhancement of the trolley system was suggested as a proper strategy to satisfy transportation needs.

Also, creation of bicycle and pedestrian paths and even use of water taxis was listed as improvements needed in that corridor.