Tourism

Sarasota commission to ask dog track about getting Benderson Park on I-75 sign

UNIVERSITY PARK -- In a crowded market for free advertising, an organization will be asked to cede its place on one desirable Interstate 75 highway road sign to allow Nathan Benderson Park to be listed.

Sarasota County Board of Commissioners have decided to speak with the Sarasota Kennel Club to see if the dog track will agree for its name to be removed from the road sign to make way for the county-owned park and rowing venue.

"I think we need to start including the dog track in the conversation since we really haven't reached out to them to my knowledge," Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson said Monday during a meeting in Venice.

The number of steps need

ed for a decision is enough for a bureaucratic Stairmaster with conversations already taking place at committee, commission and regional levels since October -- with no end yet.

"We keep going in circles, and I think we need to start trying other things to move this forward," Robinson said. "Obviously, nobody is going to want to be removed from the sign."

Florida Department of Transportation District 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway spoke to each commissioner and offered to be involved in talks, according to Robinson.

Kennel Club spokesman Jay Riley did not return a request seeking comment.

In order for Benderson Park to be placed on the Interstate 75 sign before the University Parkway exit, one organization has to be dropped because FDOT caps attractions listed at four before an exit. The four listed now: Sarasota Kennel Club, New College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee or the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

At the Fruitville Road exit, where Benderson Park can be accessed via Cattlemen and Honore roads, two more attractions can be listed. Adding Benderson Park on southbound I-75 at Fruitville Road isn't being entertained because it would take drivers 5 miles out of their way, Stublen said.

FDOT OKs location additions if space is available. If the maximum number of four is reached, any decision to remove and replace a destination rests with the local board, said Robin Stublen, FDOT spokesman.

"This is not our call as far as what location goes, what stays and what have you," Stublen said in a phone interview with the Herald. "That decision rests on the local government."

The next regularly scheduled Metropolitan Planning Organization Board meeting is March 23.

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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