Monday, February 15, 2016

LTE: No more public funds for Benderson Rowing Park

The letter below went to state legislators (links added):,

I support the email below from Pat Rounds opposing any more public (taxpayer) funds for this project.  While I am not questioning the worth or purpose of the Rowing Park, the facts are clear that SANCA promised to raise the necessary funds for completion of the facilities that SANCA also promised, as outlined in Ms Rounds' email.  The taxpayers have already fulfilled their part of the bargain, and now it is time for SANCA to fulfill its part of the bargain.  A deal is a deal, and it is now SANCA's responsibility to live up to the terms of that deal. 
Best wishes for a successful legislative session, 
William C. Zoller
Sarasota, FL

On Feb 15, 2016, at 1:07 PM, Pat Rounds wrote:
To FL State Legislators representing Sarasota County taxpayers:
Please deny any further State or public funding for Benderson Rowing Park, and encourage your colleagues to do the same.  
Recent articles indicate that between $2-$11 million is being requested to support Phase III construction in preparation for the 2017 World Rowing Championships.  Since it was promised over two years ago, the public pledge of corporate support to fully fund Phase III construction has not materialized. (See County Press release at the end of this message.) Only a small fraction of the funding required has been raised with construction deadlines looming on the near horizon. 
Public/private partnerships require both partners to deliver on pledges.  More than $30 million in public revenue was spent on park infrastructure.  $22 million in private sector funding is needed to construct a state-of-the-art finish tower, boat house, grandstands and other amenities. 
In June, 2013, rowing park officials presented renderings of a $10 million boat house to the FISA Site Selection Committee to be considered for the bid to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.  Recently park officials have suggested that a boat house is optional and merely a "luxury for the worlds".  Poor private fund-raising outcomes followed by a cynical lowering of construction obligations?    
In early 2015, the Benderson Foundation requested an additional $11 million from the State Legislature contingent on their raising a matching $11 million.  They failed to reach that goal by embarrassing numbers, and their request for funding was denied.  The situation is no different today.   
See link to a recent Herald Tribune article regarding the delayed approval for the permanent finish tower.  
Last August, the BoCC and park officials broke ground for the permanent finish tower. It was supposed to be completed in time for 2016 Olympic Rowing Trials in April, 2016.  Backed by $5 million in pledges from Benderson Foundation, the County has only now approved the construction contract----in part because they wanted proof of adequate funding.  So now the Olympic-caliber finish tower will be completed by October, 2016-----six months after the Olympic Trials are over. 
This inexcusable delay makes it necessary to construct a temporary finish tower for the April event.  And who will pay for that structure---SANCA---with County funds or state funds?  And where will the thousands of spectators sit during the Olympic trials---in those rickety bleachers for 100 people currently located at the finish line? 
Over $30 million in public revenue has been invested in park infrastructure (Phases I/II) with a pledge of corporate support for Phase III structures. 
The private sector has not delivered on its promise to make Benderson Park a premiere North American rowing venue.  
The private sector must follow through on their pledge of full support. 
No more public funds for Benderson Rowing Park. 
From a Sarasota County Press Release (Sept. 2, 2103): 
"....More than $40 million in public and private-sector funds have been committed to help transform a former borrow pit into Nathan Benderson Park, the premier rowing venue in North America, capable of hosting an Olympic-caliber event. Sarasota County's investment, $19.5 million, comes from a Tourist Development Tax (TDT), which is paid by visitors to the area. Those funds have paid for Phase I (dredge and fill) and Phase II (installation of park amenities, hardscaping and landscaping). Phase III of the project, construction of a state-of-the-art boathouse, timing towers, grandstands and other amenities, will be funded by SANCA and corporate support..."

Further references provided on request.
Thank you, 
Pat Rounds

Sarasota, FL 34235 

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