Shapo Says SANCA Strategic Plan Will Deliver More

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Attorney Ronald Shapo has served as a board member for Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates since its formation. Now, he’s been selected as the new chairman for the organization’s board of directors. Shapo tells SRQ it's an exciting time for Nathan Benderson Park.

“We’ve had a lot of success to date,” Shapo says. “We’ve increased our revenues tremendously. We have many more event attendees coming in at some pretty major events.”

The World Rowing Champions remains the most high-profile event to have occurred at Nathan Benderson Park, but major events happen each weekend. SANCA is in talks to headquarter the National Rowing Hall of Fame at the park, and the venue will soon serve as home to a new Mote Science Education Aquarium.

But Shapo says SANCA remains aware of a role as stewards of a publicly-owned facility. The park doesn't exist purely for ticketed events and admission-charging attractions.

“We have to be focused on the fact that we are a public park,” Shapo says. "It’s an obligation and a responsibility.”

And of some 600,000 people who used the park last year, he says only about 125,000 came for specific events. The rest came to enjoy the park as a public facility, whether running around the lake, using playground equipment or any other recreational reasons.

And there are improvements in the future. SANCA is raising $8 million for a boathouse and community center, and has $4 million in matching funds already pledged. The center likely won’t be built this year or next, but Shapo expects it to be part of a five-year strategic plan.

The board also just added two new members, Randy Mallitz and Michael S. Taaffe. As the board looks to long-term planning, Shapo says there’s talent and drive to build upon. And that’s after the park already delivered $142 million in economic impact and a 600-percent economic return on investment.

He dismisses complaints SANCA has not done enough private fundraising or brought facilities online quickly enough. “When SANCA took over, which is only five years ago, there was nothing there,” he says. “We said we were going to build the recognition of Sarasota as a phenomenal tourism destinations by having major events. We had a world championship.”

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