UNIVERSITY PARK -- Nathan Benderson Park will receive $2.5 million from the 2016-17 state budget for capital improvements before the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
The park requested $11 million in matching funds from the Florida Legislature to pay for four main areas of capital improvement: A $5.5 million finishing tower, a $9.5 million boathouse complex, a $3.5 million covered spectator area and $3.5 million in hardscaping and landscaping.
Nathan Benderson Park Director Paul Blackketter said they are excited about the amount given, which will put them closer to their goals before the World Rowing Championships, which the park will host in September 2017.
"We have a year and a half to finish these improvements," Blackketter said. "We've already raised $5.5 million in private funds for the finishing tower."
Gov. Rick Scott announced his planned vetoes to the state budget on Tuesday, which did not include funding for the park.
Blackketter said the $2.5 million from the state would likely go towards additional sidewalks, parking lots, lighting and other landscaping details that will help in major events.
"We rent a lot of these items now, so having this on site will make things more efficient for us," Blackketter said.
In addition to the world
championship event, Blackketter said the park consistently brings in millions of dollars in economic impact to the Manatee-Sarasota area every year. He said the park brought in $25 million in economic impact in 2015, and they're expecting $25 million in impact just from the weeklong rowing championship. They have 40 events scheduled at the park this year.
"That's in addition to everyone who walks and bikes the area on a daily basis," Blackketter said. "Our direct impact is the healthy effect we have on our citizens."
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby