The University Park and Lakewood Ranch area could be home to the largest rowing event outside of the Olympics if a bid to lure the 2017 World Rowing Championships is successful.
The Manatee County Commission gave the OK on Tuesday to bid for the world rowing championship, the Bradenton Herald reported:
"This event would mean so much more than the $25 million economic impact" over 13 days in September 2017, said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "This will brand our course, and give it the credibility worldwide for future sports championships."
The Sarasota County Commission on Feb. 13 approved a plan to bid for the championships operated by the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Aviron, or International Rowing Federation. The event would be held in Nathan Benderson Park, located in Sarasota County, near University Parkway and Interstate 75.
Sarasota County Commissioners on Wednesday, Feb. 27 also approved to provide Visit Sarasota County with $245,000 in additional tourism dollars for sports marketing for the event.
"I'm hoping we can get it," Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson said. "We sure need to try and make those efforts. I'm really looking forward to winning that bid."
However, before they come, you must build it. The Florida World Aquatic Sports Center, as the Nathan Benderson Lake rowing facility is being called, right now includes the lake, a dock and some movable bleachers.
The bid for the 2017 World Rowing Championship is being submitted by the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Association, a non-profit also in charge of fund-raising $20 million to build the rowing stadium. Right now, Benderson Development is working to construct an island in the lake as part of the project beside the earth movers trying to lay the foundation for The Mall at University Town Center.
Virginia Hayley, president of Visit Sarasota County, told The Herald-Tribune knows it is a challenge:
"You don't want to reach too far, too soon," she said. "But to be honest I believe that pushing 2017 really makes sure we get the project done. It doesn't languish for another 20 years. And in a way it makes it sexier to sell to potential corporate sponsors because you can see the impact of your donations."
If that fails, a temporary venue can be built for $5 million, the Herald-Tribune reported.
The 2017 championships are estimated to cost $6 million, and Visit Sarasota County officials expect that a "significant portion of this budget can be raised through ticket sales, merchandise, hotel room rebates and commissions and corporate sponsors."
In 2012 dollars, Sarasota and Manatee County would see nearly $13 million in direct spending by athletes, coaches, officials and visitors, according to a Visit Sarasota County Board of Directors report.
Visit Sarasota County estimates that 42,000 visitors will come here for the championships in addition to about 1,200 athletes and 973 coaches from 62 countries, producing 40,000 room nights generated for hotel stays.
More than 126 million people viewed the championships on television, which heightens the importance of getting a good television rights deal to help pay for the expenses involved with hosting the championships, according to a Visit Sarasota report.
Sarasota and Manatee's cost for the bid includes largely world travel during fiscal 2013, sending officials to Switzerland, Korea, Sydney and the United Kingdom to attend World Cup events, meeting with the sports' officials governing body and to bid in person for the award. Each year, the delegation would travel to two rowing events and host FISA officials at Nathan Benderson Park.
Manatee County will use Tourist Development Council funds to pay for the $1.1 million for the championship, the Bradenton Herald reported, while Sarasota County will pay its $1.17 million in Tourist Development Tax and marketing funds, according to a Visit Sarasota County report.
"This is not being paid by our local taxpayer dollars," Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta said. "None of your property tax dollars are being used for this."
The costs for bid and event fees are split in half between the two counties, but the travel costs are dependant on which county officials are travelling, Hayley said.
"It's a shared spirit that all of this is being met," she said.