Benderson to bid for world tourney

MANATEE -- The World Rowing Championships in Sarasota?

Benderson Development Co. LLC believes it’s possible.

Paul Blackketter, project manager for Benderson Development, says the company plans to bid to host the World Rowing Championships here in 2017.

Benderson Development is working on a world-class rowing facility estimated to cost $30 million at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota.

The project has already gained $20 million in support from Sarasota County, and Manatee County is developing a complementary rowing facility off the Manatee River.

And the Manatee County Tourism Development Council indicated Monday that funds from its tourism tax collections could be forthcoming when development progresses on the facility.

In a presentation to the Manatee tourism board Monday, Blackketter said the final phase of the rowing facility will cost an estimated $10 million.

That phase will include adding the amenities suited to World Rowing Championships standards such as an elite training boathouse, a start tower, alignment tower, covered grandstands, a finishing tower and a jumbo tron.

Benderson Development expects to raise about $10 million to $15 million largely from naming opportunities on the infrastructure.

The facility’s 2,000-meter course, which includes eight buoyed lanes, will open in 2012 with the world-class amenities projected for completion by 2014.

Manatee tourism officials see the rowing facility as a

huge economic boost for tourism.

“If you can show the cost benefits, we would definitely be at the plate,” said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, chair of the Manatee Tourism Development Council.

Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the tourism bureau has supported the rowing facility by partly funding promotional videos and brochures.

The Tourism Development Council also will discuss providing “marketing dollars” or “bid dollars” when the facility is closer to the third and final phase of the project, Falcione added.

Fifty countries competed in this year’s World Rowing Championships from Oct. 30-Nov. 7 in Karapiro, New Zealand.

Blackketter attended the World Rowing Championships to market the master planned facility and said he received positive feedback from the rowing teams.

“A lot of the response was, ‘It’s about time the United States is stepping up with a true first-class rowing course,’” Blackketter said.

Grace Gagliano, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.