Sarasota News Leader

02/14/2014

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Late last year, Visit Sarasota County's sports director, Nicole Rissler, told the County Commission it would be a "challenge" to prove to the state that the Florida Legislature's decision to put another $5 million toward the rowing facility at Nathan Benderson Park was a worthwhile investment. The state had asked the nonprofit running the rowing facil- ity to promise that the project would generate at least $25 million in state sales tax revenue. If not? The county would be on the hook to return the state's $5 million. But thanks to a small adjustment in contract language approved with zero discussion this week by the Board of County Commissioners, the "challenge" Rissler discussed may be a lit- tle less challenging. When the Legislature appropriated $5 mil- lion in 2013, on top of the original $5 million approved in 2012, the state insisted on insert- ing so-called "clawback" language in the deal. The measure was intended to ensure that if the rowing project doesn't pan out, the state would be reimbursed for its commitment. In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott signed last May, Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates President Paul Blackketter pledged that the project would generate $25 million in sales tax revenue by the end of 2018. The Tufts University rowing team trains on the Charles River. More teams are coming to Sarasota and Manatee counties to train each year, thanks to the development of Benderson Park and associated facilities. Photo by Christopher Schmidt, via Flickr CONTRACT CHANGES MAKE IT EASIER FOR SARASOTA COUNTY TO PROVE STATE'S ROWING INVESTMENT WAS WISE CLAWING BACK THE CLAWBACK By Cooper Levey-Baker Associate Editor

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