The SANCA Business Plan and two Calvins

I miss Calvin and Hobbes.  Calvin was an irresistible, imaginative boy.  Like many six year-olds, he constantly looked for shortcuts around things he didn’t like to do.   Avoiding homework, chores or eating his vegetables, Calvin’s antics were epic, providing giggles and grins at bedtime for my sons and I.   In one series of strips, Calvin extols the grade-enhancing virtues of attractive packaging.  note: please click on the image to read the strip

Calvin and Hobbes, plastic report

Betting that style will trump substance, Calvin submits his poor excuse for a book report in the clear plastic binder.  He expects his marketing will score big points with his teacher, Miss Wormwood.

You know where this is going.

Here is one conclusion page of the recently submitted Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, or SANCA, business plan.  SANCA is the entity charged with operating Nathan Benderson Park, aka the rowing center.

SANCA business plan

Answering this series of questions is what a business plan is supposed to do.  Take a close look at that last question.  So far the Sarasota County Commission has bonded the Charter limit (roughly 20 million) – the amount the County can borrow for any one project without putting it to referendum.  The State of Florida has kicked in 10 million – in the form of two 5 million dollar grants.  The amount SANCA still requires for the rowing center?  22 million (you’ll definitely need to click on this one).  Twenty-two million dollars must appear in the year 2015.

SANCA Summary

Unfortunately, aside from a fundraising job description, there is precious little information on how SANCA plans to raise another 22 million.   The plan call for hiring a “high energy fundraiser” and tapping individual, corporate and foundation giving.  You have to wonder what has kept SANCA from previously tapping individual, corporate and foundation giving.  The project began in 2008.  Does SANCA intend to keep coming after public dollars?  Where is the “private” in this public-private “partnership”?


Back to Calvin.  Definitely worth clicking to read.


Calvin Grade


Calvin’s only six.  He has time to recover.  Thankfully Miss Wormwood is doing her job, rejecting lousy work.  His teacher isn’t seduced by the “professional” plastic cover.


Unlike Miss Wormwood, the Sarasota County Commission accepts style over substance, empty promises over firm commitments.   When SANCA was formed, the organization promised to raise millions to fund the rowing facility.  Today the park is almost entirely funded by the public, with nominal private contribution.  When another Calvin, Cal Ripken, and the Orioles came to town, they promised (under oath) to fundraise “immediately” and build a Cal Ripken Youth Academy.  Five years later, we all know those promises were rubbish.

The year 2015 is sandwiched neatly between election years.  Have the keepers of the public coffers already been lobbied?  Have commitments for public millions for SANCA in 2015 been lined up?

Time will tell.


Click on this sentence to link to the SANCA business plan docs

The documents are stamped “draft”, but are the County-accepted plans for the 55 million dollar park.





2 Comments on The SANCA Business Plan and two Calvins

  1. The key phrase is “Draft”. Commissioner Robinson states this is an “experienced” organization. But to date (after over 3 years in operation) the leaders of this organization do not have a final business plan to present to the Commission. (Typically business plans are the first thing you develop after establishing an entity).

    SANCA has two key commitments to the county for which this County Commission failed to include in the operating agreement: 1) as mentioned above, their fund raising plan and forecast by year and 2) the economic impact forecast and associated tax revenue that will generate by year. And because the agreement does not include a schedule of these commitments by year – there are no measurements, or a mechanism to review the agreement throughout its initial period. But be assured, SANCA made sure the County’s commitments are clearly stated by year.

    How did this happen? Well if you went to the meeting a few weeks ago you would have heard it all. A rowing coach went to the park and asked to use it for practices. He then got an idea that it could be turned into a first rate world class rowing facility. He went to Benderson to discuss the idea. He liked it and got his friends on the Commission to approve it. He also got his staff to set up SANCA as a non-profit to run it. So a non-profit gets established for the sole purpose to run a facility by the contractor that will perform all the construction work so it is a natural extension to give that organization the operating agreement too. Case closed – nothing to see here, move along.

    It is how the “club” operates.

    It is time to end “public-private partnerships” – they do not serve the public interests.

    • Here is a Commissioner’s response to Marilynne Martin’s concerns.

      From: Christine Robinson
      Sent: Saturday, March 29, 2014 11:23 PM
      To: Marilynne Martin
      Cc: Carolyn Brown; Paul Blackketter; ACAs
      Subject: RE: SANCA Agreement – disappointing

      Dear Ms. Martin,

      Thank you for your e-mail. The SANCA business plan and the operating agreement have been discussed at commission meetings since last year. It has been a long and progressive discussion, not just a discussion arrived at one meeting. I am sorry you missed those previous discussions.

      I disagree with you about your comments about SANCA being inexperienced and untested. SANCA was formed in 2010 and has put on a series of local, state, and national events in addition to coordination of training visits from school and other events. This year alone, SANCA has implemented events at the park which include the US Rowing Coxswain Clinic, the US Referee College, in addition to the growing number of teams who have come to train. There are 27 events scheduled from October 2013-October 2014 not including the practices. A few of the events are even scheduled for the same day, which requires incredible logistic coordination.

      I agree there will be a loss up to 2017, that is because of the further construction and logistics necessary in order host the 2017 World Rowing Championships. This would occur no matter who is running the venue.

      The county’s portion of the bill for the park was paid for using tourist development tax money (just shy of $20 million), not property tax money. This was fully supported by the tourism industry. Once we spent TDT tax money on the park, we can no longer just leave it as a park as you suggest, it has to be used to generate further tourism and benefit the tourism industry in the form of overnight stays which is accomplished through the state and national competitions. It will be hard for other venues to claim responsibility for competitive rowing events since there is no venue on the Suncoast that could have these competitions.

      By copy of this e-mail I am requesting that our Parks Director send you a copy of the Business Plan discussed at a earlier meeting this year and the operating agreement. I have also copied Mr. Blackketter in case he should wish to add anything that I have missed.

      Best Regards,

      Christine Robinson
      Sarasota County Commissioner
      Sarasota County Government
      1660 Ringling Blvd
      Sarasota, Florida 34236
      Assisted by Robin Bayus

      I observe the Civility Rule: I will conduct myself in a civil manner in all communications and will expect and require the same of individuals communicating with me.

      All e-mail sent and received is subject to the public records laws of the State of Florida

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