Sarasota County commissioners tomorrow will consider another milestone in preparing Nathan Benderson Park for the 2017 World Rowing Championship — officially giving the venue a shepherd.
Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA) will run the day-to-day operations, events and fundraising at the 600-acre park if commissioners approve a five-year contract running from April 15, through Sept. 30, 2019. The agreement includes an automatic 10-year extension if the organization completes the finish tower, grand stands and safety improvements within six months of the end of the contract, and options for additional 10-year extensions after that.
The county will reimburse SANCA, a non-profit led by Benderson Development project manager Paul Blakketer, up to $788,000 per fiscal year (with pro-rated amounts this year) for maintenance costs, personnel and administrative expenses and the staging of special events, according to a memo to commissioners. Those funds would come from the county's tourist development taxes and the special recreation fund, but a revenue forecast shows the general fund may need to supplement funding by at least $300,000 in the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years.
“I can say with confidence SANCA has the manpower, incentive and right people to fundraise and construct the improvements as fast as we possibly can,” Blackketter said in a February 5 issue of the East County Observer. “Right now, we’re building the bridge to world class, and we appreciate the investment of the community to help us get there. Once we’re there, in 2018, the venue (becomes self sufficient).”