Power Boat Exclusive

After tearing through public records about IMG Academy and other tourism initiatives, the lead tourism folks for the county decided to bring an exclusive to me about a major event planned for Bradenton.

It showed they trusted me and that I could do a thorough job. And sure, they wanted to have more control over the story…and they were asking my publisher for sponsorship money.

Still, it turned out to be a nice get. And the event itself was a success during its first year. A few minor hiccups with food, access and beer, but plenty of people turned out.

The one thing I regret not doing in my reporting was calling people in Pittsburgh about this event not associated with it. After I left the paper, I found out that the company that was bringing the festival to Bradenton, ISM-USA, lost the contract for the Pittsburgh event the following year as the city wanted to have someone new at the helm.

Not major but it would explain some of the motivation.

As the year progressed, I would cover minor updates from tourism council meetings and the urban affairs reporter would focus on the city issues from both Palmetto and Bradenton as this became more of a municipal story until the event itself.

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Boating Bandwagon at Benderson Park

During my time at both Sarasota Patch and the Bradenton Herald, I got to learn about the merits of sculling, rowing and whatever other boat-related sport you can have.

The development of what became Nathan Benderson Park into a world caliber venue for aquatic sports—namely sculling and rowing—was a fun journey. It wasn’t without its controversy considering the costs, and it still is and probably will be after the World Rowing Championships finally come to the border of Sarasota and Manatee counties in 2018.

Here’s the downlow on how this all came to be in as much as I can reduce it before you dig into my clips:

-A few folks noticed how perfectly rectangle a old borrow pit that became a lake was and thought, huh, this would be cool to use for rowing.

-These folks talked to Nathan Benderson, the founder of powerful Benderson Development Company, about getting behind this cause. The man, who would ride his bike around this park up until the day he died, was convinced. They just needed to convince Sarasota County.

-The county said sure, they took the money from Benderson after talking to rowing officials that this could work. Benderson also saw how nice it would be considering how much land owns for retail sits just north of it. The lake was expanded for regulation racing over a period of time. A road was expanded and connected for better access.

-Donations were hard to come by through fundraising so the local rowing officials kept asking the State of Florida for millions of dollars to help finish the park and the buildings needed for the championships. (This is still happening in 2016.)

-In 2013, the park was awarded the 2017 World Rowing Championship plus additional events. Construction of the park still has not finished, but some main components are in place.

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Major League Soccer Pre-Season Series

2014 Third-place Travel Writing, Class A-B, Florida Press Club, “Major League Soccer chooses IMG Academy as pre-season hub” series

While checking emails of public officials, I stumbled upon some information about a mega sports-tourism initiative in Manatee County. After FOIAs and interviews, I was able to get an exclusive, beating national outlets, that Major League Soccer would choose IMG Academy as its East Coast hub for the pre-season. This was a similar approach to how teams use Tucson, Ariz., as a West Coast hub.

MLS could never develop a true spring training set-up like baseball just because how soccer teams train. So, even while IMG received the hub designation, they would still train in other cities before and after their stop in Bradenton. The concept evolved in the second year with a pre-season tournament.

The award is in one of the toughest categories to win in a Florida press contest—tourism. And that it competed against entries in Class A (Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald, et. al), demonstrated that judges saw something worthwhile.

Here are each of the stories in the series:

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