A solution to choppy waves during rowing events at lake could involve allowing people to walk on water.
Paul Blackketter, Benderson Development project manager for Nathan Benderson Park, provided before the Sarasota County Commission Wednesday some adjustments to design after a trip to Bulgaria where he met international rowing officials, and one of them resulted in the discussion of how to minimize waves on the lake.
Blackketter said rowing officials are looking at wave attenuation systems, and one of them could be a platform anchored underneath the surface that would absorb waves and could be adjusted to allow people to walk on.
Blackketter explains that an easterly wind blows across the lake that builds up waves across racing lanes, and a high-tech system would help resolve the wave issues.
"We've also looked into these floating platforms that would be anchored, and it actually expands the use where you can possibly walk out on them, and we're going through that whole process of understanding what is that perfect system that we can afford that would best suit this facility and most importantly, meet those standards," Blackketter said.
The system is included in a $5 million contract funded by an Enterprise Florida grant approved by the commission Wednesday. This was the $5 million that the Legislature approved and Gov. Rick Scott approved, after Scott had vetoed the money in 2011.
The exact type and form of wave attenuation system has not been selected yet.
The grant would do the following:
• Construction an east island bridge to the park island
• Install a wave attenuation system
• Land development for the park island to be prepared for future buildings ad amenities.
"We've had different opportunities to build land masses — the lake's too deep, it's too expensive," Blackketter said.
So far the construction of the island that will be used for launching boats is half complete with dredging expected to be finished in November, he said, and hopes that will be in use by the 2013 season.
When the rowing venue is complete, it's slated to be called the Florida World Aquatic Center.
Blackketter also previewed a proposal that Benderson will ask for that would tweak the north end of the park and how the Benderson and Taubman Centers-owned University Town Center will face the lake.
The previewed shoreline design change concerned Commissioner Nora Patterson.
"It looks like you've actually put buildings on the shoreline there on either side of what looks like a public space," Patterson said.
Blackketter called the design a "placeholder" and that Benderson is working with designers about property around a linear park area.
He said the space between the shopping center and Nathan Benderson Park "was pretty expansive" and were looking for better connectivity between the two properties.
"This is a discussion that we're going to have to come with you and talk in great detail," he said, adding the proposal will detail exactly where the public and private lands begin and end.
County staff's concerns includes what would be done with the $19 million contribution for the rowing park by the county in those plans and what additional maintenance costs it would bring to the county, County Administrator Randall Reid said.
"It's also pretty valuable waterfront property as we work this together," he said.
A delegation of Blackketter and other rowing venue workers recently visited a Plovdiv, Bulgaria, for the 2012 World Senior and Junior Rowing Championships, where they met a member of the International Olympic Committee and the International Rowing Federation's top official to show them what Sarasota's design plans are.
The visit resulted in some design tweaks for shading, seating and other elements, Blackketter told the commission, but at no additional cost, and believes if anything, the design suggestions by the International Rowing officials could save them money.
"They really want to see this course come into fruition," he said.
Blackketter believes the same world events could be at Benderson Park by 2015 such as collegiate championships, gearing up for the international championship in 2017.
"There's no question that we have the ability to host these world rowing championships right here in Sarasota, Florida," Blackketter said.
The trip wound up bringing some partnerships where at a dinner table Blackketter received an offer from the Italian rowing delegation.
"They said, 'We want to bring our entire Italian team to Sarasota to train,'" he said.
Commissioner Joe Barbetta is pleased with the park's progress.
"This is just getting better every day," he said. "We've seen a pretty substantial economic impact already in its current state. Obviously when it's done it's probably going to be one of the top three in the world."
Nathan Benderson Park Milestones
November: South lake dredging complete
February 2013: North Cattleman Road extension complete
March 2013: Park island and two vehicle bridges complete
March 2013: Wave attenuation system complete
Source: Sarasota County Government