Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rowing Funding May Yet Emerge

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rowing Funding May Yet Emerge

Article excerpt

BENDERSON PARK: Boosters say they need more from state ahead of 2017 event

More state funding for the Nathan Benderson Rowing Park is still a possibility, even though the project is nowhere in the draft budgets the Florida Legislature is debating, a key advocate for the rowing center said.

The park already has received $10 million in state funding since 2012, but to be ready for the 2017 World Rowing Championships, rowing boosters say they need $22 million more to ensure the park is ready. Half of that to come from private donations, but park supporters say they need the other half from the state.

Former state Sen. Mike Bennett, who is on the Benderson Park Foundation Board, said that in the legislative process things have a way of changing in the closing days of the session that could still bring the rowing park the $11 million from the state government.

In both 2012 and 2013, Bennett said funding for the project looked dead until the closing days of session, when $5 million ended up in the final budget in each year.

Though a similar request never made it into the budget last year, Bennett said this year is different, because the Benderson Park Foundation Board has raised more than $9 million from private undisclosed sources and expects to hit $11 million. He said that will show state lawmakers that there is local support for facility, beyond government sources.

"We're only going to ask the state for a match to what we can raise," Bennett said.

Not all of that $9 million in private donations is guaranteed. Bennett said that includes some donations that are contingent on the state giving more money to the project.

He said he could not say exactly how many donations fit that description but estimated it could be in the neighborhood of one- third of the donations.

The local, private support has helped influence state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who put in an $11 million budget request for the rowing park this year. Steube said he submitted the request because the foundation has raised money privately this year. …

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