The Manatee County Tourist Development Council on Monday unanimously approved to recommend amending the county’s branded venue agreement with Nathan Benderson Park.
The amendment was necessary to update the construction time line for the park’s finishing tower and boathouse. Both structures were scheduled for completion by the end of January 2017, but the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, Inc., was “not able to meet that deadline,” SANCA president and CEO Robert Sullivan said in a letter to Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione.
The new completion date for the finish tower is by the end of July, though the boathouse won’t be finished until December 2020, according to the letter.
$10 million cost of boat house at Nathan Benderson Park
With an estimated cost of $10 million for the boat house, the Nathan Benderson Community Park Foundation pledged a $5 million matching grant. It’s up to SANCA to find the other $5 million.
“If the state doesn’t come up with the money, then we’ll be looking for other sources,” Sullivan said in a phone interview. “We’ll make a request next year for the same thing.”
He hopes to know as soon as possible what the state’s verdict is on the funding. The latest SANCA will find out is sometime this summer before Gov. Rick Scott signs the state budget in July.
Sullivan became president of SANCA in August, and he said he’s under the impression that “the assumption was we were going to find funding and get it built for the World Rowing Championships, but that funding never materialized.”
The World Rowing Championships staff is more concerned about the finish tower than the boathouse, said Max Winitz, spokesman for the event.
“We wouldn’t have been able to have the 2017 World Rowing Championships in this area if that finish tower had not been constructed,” Winitz said in an email. “A tower is a FISA requirement to host a World Rowing Championships. A boathouse is not.”
$6 million cost of finish tower at Nathan Benderson Park
The $6 million finish tower, funded entirely by the Nathan Benderson Community Park Foundation, will provide a space for community members to sign up for events, classes and camps, as well as rent boats and bikes. A concession stand will offer food and drink for purchase.
“The finish tower will provide spaces for event officials and timing crews that are unmatched for quality and space anywhere throughout the country and will help facilitate our continued efforts to attract national and international events,” reads documentation attached to Sullivan’s letter.
SANCA administration offices will occupy the fourth floor of the tower and banquet rental space will be available on the third and fifth floors.
The boathouse at Nathan Benderson Park will provide “event and banquet space rental opportunities” as well as locker room space, a fitness center, restrooms, offices and boat storage. The Guy Peterson Office for Architecture, the same firm that designed the finish tower, was selected to design the boathouse.
The request to extend the construction time line was not a surprise to the tourist development council.
“We communicate well with SANCA and we’re excited because they’re three-quarters of the way done with everything they have promised the region,” Falcione said. “And they have designed one of the best finishing towers in the world. It will have elements that the boathouse was supposed to have, so once the finishing tower opens there will be a revenue source so that corporations can rent it for banquets and retreats.”