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Florida Governor Applauds Benderson’s Vision

by Allison Frederick, allison@usrowing.org | Aug 15, 2013
More than 200 state and local dignitaries gathered into an air-conditioned hospitality tent on the opening day of the 2013 USRowing Masters National Championships at Nathan Benderson Park, to celebrate the vision, and the creation of the world-class rowing venue in front of them.
More than 200 state and local dignitaries gathered into an air-conditioned hospitality tent on the opening day of the 2013 USRowing Masters National Championships at Nathan Benderson Park, to celebrate the vision, and the creation of the world-class rowing venue in front of them.

As the first few races of the championships came down the course, Florida governor Rick Scott, 12-time Hall of Fame sportscaster Dick Vitale, USRowing CEO Glenn Merry, and Sarasota and Manatee County leaders applauded Randy Benderson of Benderson Development, for his dream.

“It’s passion and leadership that make these things happen,” Scott said of the sports complex that has received more than $40 million in state and county tax money. “These things don’t happen by themselves. This community has been outstanding in its support.”

“What we like to say here, is that we have a community public-private partnership, and that’s how this course began. By the community,” said Blackketter, executive director of planning for Benderson Development and chief operating officer of the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Association.

Before the county purchased the property in the mid-1990s, it had been an active shell excavation pit for road construction fill. It is now the potential site of the 2017 World Rowing Championships, to be officially announced on September 2, following this year’s championships in Chungju, South Korea.

The only other world rowing championship to take place in the United States was in Indianapolis in 1994.

“There is a unique project going on here – creating, from scratch, a world-class rowing venue that will attract the top athletes from around the world,” said Merry. “Our plan is to make sure that this site gets the national attention it deserves, that we have athletes coming down to do training camps, that USRowing hosts regional and national competitions here on a rotating basis.

“We see Sarasota as the future of our sport,” he said. “We see this as an important partnership that will drive rowing to new heights.”

The facility has plans for future development, including 2,200-meter racing lanes and straight shorelines by the end of 2013, coaching lanes, wave attenuation wall, a multi-function boathouse and athlete training center, starting huts and finish towers, grandstands and a state-of-the-art boat maintenance and testing facility.

“I don’t know rowing, but I do know people,” said Vitale. “I’ve been around people that are winners at the game of life. And I knew the first time I met the Benderson family, this was a family that was about more than building buildings and building shopping centers. They are people that are generous and caring and lend a hand to help those in need.

“My mom taught me never to believe in can’t,” he said. “That’s Randy. Randy had a vision. This didn’t just happen by accident. It’s people that don’t believe in can’t. People that are visionary, and have an unbelievable desire and a plan. Just sitting here, I hear so much passion about rowing. That’s what life is about.

“Randy epitomizes what I believe in so much. It’s a simple formula for success: it’s passion, plus work ethic, plus good decision-making in your personal life. That usually leads to winning at the game of life, the game we all play.

“My wife and I, we are so proud to be a part of this community. And when the world championships come here, we’ll be right front and center, giving all the support we can.”
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