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Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 6 years ago

Benderson Development planning unique, international rowing facility

by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

Todd Mathes, Benderson Development’s director of development, told members of the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations that, once completed, the Benderson Aquatic Center, including the rowing facility off University Parkway, will be unique not only in Florida, but on an international level.

“The water is completely unaffected by outside elements,” said Mathes. “We’ll have the most fair conditions possible. You just can’t replicate that.”

Mathes was a last-minute stand-in for Paul Blackketter, project manager of Benderson Development, who was in Tallahassee Monday to negotiate with legislators for state funding of the facility.

Using $20 million in county funds, Benderson is working to extend the south lake to the 2,000-meter, standard length for major rowing events. Blackketter in October assured the County Commission Benderson would raise the other $20 million needed to complete the facility — possibly through a combination of state and private funding.

Mathes stressed the importance of ensuring the facility is multifaceted, to allow yearlong use, which will mean a regular flow of revenue.

The course has been designed by International Federation of Rowing Associations architects to be one of the premier rowing locations in North America, he said. “We asked what they would design if they could have their druthers, and this is what they came up with,” Mathes said.

Blackketter told the County Commission in 2012 that his international travel to see other facilities also had helped shape the project.

Plans include park amenities and pedestrian-friendly roads, Mathes said, as well as the rowing facilities. Nearby hotels will provide guests with walking access to the lake.

On-site training facilities, dragon-boat races, triathlons, kayak races and other events will provide income outside the six-week rowing season, he said. Already, teams from Harvard, Georgetown and Northeastern universities, among others, have expressed interest in using the lake for training; their visits would contribute to the local economy, Mathes said.

Benderson officials are looking forward to the first national rowing competition at the facility in the spring of 2014, he added.

Mathes also discussed the progress of the Cattlemen Road extension, which is scheduled for completion in December. He pointed out that it will remove traffic from neighborhood roads.

The meeting Monday evening, which drew about 30 members, was the first presided over by the newly elected president, Lourdes Ramirez of Siesta Key.

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