UNIVERSITY PARK -- The consensus is clear: Nathan Benderson Park needs to be on Interstate 75 signage from both directions to direct people to the park, which will host the 2017 World Rowing Championships and bring spectators here from around the world.
But the answer of how to add the park to the sign on I-75 southbound at University Parkway is not as clear.
The Florida Department of Transportation allows a maximum of two signs with two destinations each before an exit, and these four destinations are already signed at the southbound I-75 and University Parkway location. The I-75 north signage at Fruitville Road has only two destinations now identified.
On Monday, the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization discussed possible changes to the signage before the 2017 event,
which is expected to bring a lot of people here. To add Benderson Park, one of the four existing destinations -- New College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, the Sarasota Kennel Club dog track and Ringling Museum -- must be removed per the FDOT restriction.
The Citizen Advisory Committee called for removing the dog track, and the Technical Advisory Committee asked the MPO board to ask all local jurisdictions about which item to remove before making its final decision.
While the MPO board did not vote on which destination to remove to make way for Benderson Park, some board members voiced possible solutions.
Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson suggested removing the dog track, calling it an attraction and adding it to the blue logo signs on the highway.
"My recollection is some have attractions on them," she said. "Is it possible to take the dog track and add it to attraction?"
Manatee County Commissioner and MPO Chairman Larry Bustle asked whether the two colleges could be combined onto one line, but FDOT traffic operational manager Matt Weaver said the restriction is not about the number of lines but how many destinations are on the sign.
"You need to figure out a way to do it," Bustle said. "We have a community that needs a solution. You are giving us bureaucratic answers that don't make sense."
Sarasota Vice Mayor Susan Chapman expressed her concern with the length of the name Nathan Benderson Park on a sign on I-75.
"That's a very large name and creates a human factors issue," she said. "I wonder if it should be something more simple like rowing center."
Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority Commissioner Jack Rynerson said the dog track should be eliminated.
"The dog track is a local area thing," he said.
Rynerson also added that New College of Florida is a "very small institution."
"It may be wonderful, but that doesn't fit the bill if we are limited to four," he said.
In an email to Sarasota County staff Monday, Robinson asked for "discussion and possible action on I-75 signage guiding visitors and athletes to Nathan Benderson Park" be added to the commission's next meeting agenda under her reports. The commission's next meetings are Jan. 12 and 13.
Also Monday, the board approved the FDOT tentative work program report for 2016-2020, which includes the addition of lanes at the I-75 and University Parkway interchange, landscaping at that interchange and roundabouts at U.S. 41 and 14th Street and U.S. 41 and 10th Street in Sarasota. The additional lanes at the University Parkway interchange are on the 2017-18 year work program, which is after the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.