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East County Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2013 4 years ago

Waiting begins on FISA rowing bid

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

EAST COUNTY — The wait has begun.

Local officials will learn within two weeks if a pitch made around the world will come full circle.

Rowing advocates and representatives of Sarasota and Manatee counties had 15 minutes July 14, to present their case as to why Nathan Benderson Park — future home to a world-class rowing venue — should be selected to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

The East County site is one of two venues being considered for the event. The other is located in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Officials from the International Federation of Rowing Associations are expected to announce their recommendation by the end of July. The FISA Council will hold its formal vote in September.

Paul Blackketter, chief operating officer of the SunCoast Aquatic Nature Center Association, the non-profit tasked with managing the park’s rowing facilities, as well as associated rowing sites in Manatee and Sarasota counties, said the presentation touted the teamwork between local government, business, rowing organizations and the community on the project.

“We did a lot of rehearsals and it came off effortlessly and seamlessly,” Blackketter said of the presentation, which was made in Lucerne, Switzerland, following the 2013 Samsung World Rowing Cup July 12 through July 14. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and assume (anything). We feel confident. It was a true class act to bring home the world championships.”

Sarasota and Manatee counties each have guaranteed up to about $2.8 million in efforts to secure the event, which they believe will have an economic impact of up to $25 million.

The lake at Nathan Benderson Park has been lengthened to accommodate a 2,000-meter rowing course, but many improvements, including a boathouse, FISA towers and other projects, will be completed in the coming years.

Blackketter said he does not believe the timing of constructing venue amenities will be a problem.

“They’ve seen the venue; they understand it,” Blackketter said of FISA officials, who toured the site in April.

“This is the culmination of a five-year effort. We’re committed to build it and construct it and have it delivered by 2016.”

The state contributed $5 million extra toward the project this year, which will allow Sarasota County to build the FISA tower and other related projects on the site, Blackketter said.

The only outstanding amenity will be a boathouse, which would cost about $10 million. Blackketter said FISA officials reviewed schematics of the boathouse over the weekend, and plans would be better defined in the coming weeks. Costs for the project would be covered by donations.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].


The local delegation that traveled to Lucerne, Switzerland, to plead its case for hosting the 2017 World Rowing Championships at Nathan Benderson Park carried with it letters of support from President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress.

Delegates included: SunCoast Aquatic Nature Center Association CEO Paul Blackketter; Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle; Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker; Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston; Elliott Falcione, of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; Benderson Development President Randy Benderson; Sarasota County Administrator Randy Reid; Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta; Nicole Rissler, sports director for the Sarasota County Sports Commission; Glenn Merry, of USRowing; and Mara Ford, of the National Rowing Foundation.

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