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Business Observer Wednesday, Jul. 14, 2010 9 years ago

Rowing facility approved

Sarasota County has not determined the funding source for the $28 million project.

Sarasota County approved the Benderson Park Master Plan Wednesday, a concept plan including a world class rowing facility in north Sarasota near Interstate 75.

Funding is subject to further review of the County Commission and the Tourist Development Council for the $26-$28 million project. If implemented, experts say it will likely become the finest facility of its kind in the country because of the shape of the lake, the weather, and access to services such as hotels and restaurants.

About $6.6 million in cash is currently available to get the project started, however the first phase is estimated to cost $7.5 to $8.5 million.

County commissioners want its Tourist Development Council to weigh-in particularly on funding options, which are likely to include part of a proposed fifth cent of the tourist development tax. A special taxing district that would tax commercial property owners in the area is being considered to fund operating costs and offset debt service.

County staff expect it will take three to four months to issue a request for professional services for the first phase of the project. That phase would include permitting for dredge and fill operations to extend the 1,500-meter rowing course to two kilometers, and utilities and site work.

Commissioners also want to consider whether to proceed with a single initial phase, or seek bids to include subsequent phases all at once as a cost-saving measure. County staff anticipates the full development of the site could be completed by 2014.

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