Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

As a Park, Benderson Misses the Mark

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

As a Park, Benderson Misses the Mark

Article excerpt

COMMENTARY

I felt a sudden urge to watch some rowing on Monday afternoon and as luck would have it there is a world-class rowing facility right here in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.

It's called Nathan Benderson Park and it's next to the glorious University Town Center Mall and the new diverging diamond interchange, which remains under construction, though not for much longer I'm sure. Perhaps you've seen the park while stuck in traffic on Interstate 75. It's the square excavation pit surrounded by a walking path and a bunch of power lines.

The University of Oklahoma rowing team was training there on Monday and I mean this in all sincerity: It was impressive, if not poetic, to watch them. The boats really do glide across the water. There really is a synergy among teammates that is striking. There really should be an appreciation everyone has for the beauty of the sport ... if it's at the right venue.

Benderson Park is not the right venue. It might be in six months, when the World Rowing Championships take place, but it's not now. Watching rowers there now is like watching a performance of Swan Lake on the tarmac of LaGuardia Airport. There are just too many annoying distractions for you to enjoy, appreciate or even concentrate on the beauty of what you are there to see.

I tried watching the rowers from the west side of the lake looking east. It lasted about 10 seconds because my eyes were immediately drawn to all of the traffic constantly rushing past on I-75. C'mon, who doesn't love watching big semis at a public park? Extending a buffer wall between the interstate and the park does not make it any better, either.

I watched from the south side looking north and it was the same thing: About 10 seconds and then my eyes were drawn to the unavoidable backdrop of the UTC mall and the skeleton of the unfinished finishing tower that was supposed to be completed in September at a cost of $5 million. …

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