In a formality, the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners accepted a business plan from Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, the nonprofit that landed the region the 2017 World Rowing Championships, to manage Nathan Benderson Park.
Under the agreement, approved by commissioners at its Tuesday meeting, SANCA, headed by Paul Blackketter, a project manager for East County-based Benderson Development and a rowing enthusiast, will manage improvements to Nathan Benderson Park — the site of the rowing championships — and coordinate event bookings and community programming.
Leading up to the rowing championships, the plan calls for construction crews to build a boathouse, grandstands and a finish tower, the core of an expansion to facilities that requires SANCA to raise $15 million.
The state has provided a $5 million grant to help fund park improvements, in the form of a clawback provision, meaning the state can recoup the money if economic impact promises are not met.
“I can say with confidence SANCA has the manpower, incentive and right people to fundraise and construct the improvements in the timeframe we specified,” Blackketter told the board, who praised the plan but asked SANCA to provide more specific fundraising timelines and economic impact figures. “I am receiving the board’s message loud and clear. We will meet and exceed the expectations set forth by the investment of the community and state. I can say in my heart we’re at a better place now than we were a couple weeks ago.”
Visit Sarasota has said the rowing championships will bring a $25 million economic impact to the region.
Read more about the business plan in the Feb. 6 East County Observer.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].