“We are not heroes,” says Matthew Showalter, a former Army Ranger who relocated to Marathon in 2008 to “get his head right.”
“We’re just a couple of cool dudes who choose to fix the bridge instead of buying new jet-skis. We have been drinking, so the choice was easy.”
Showalter and his buddy Steve Cook are now the latest stakeholders to join Monroe County, the state of Florida and city of Marathon as entities funding the rehabilitation of the old 7 Mile Bridge.
“I wouldn’t consider us ‘entities,’” says Cook between hiccups. “We both have social security numbers and put our Crocs on like everyone else. We are just a couple of cool dudes who love history, vodka and our community.”
When contractors working on the $77 million 7 Mile Bridge rehab discovered deep crevasses in the bridge’s pilings the fate of the historic structure was cast in serious doubt due to significant indeterminate cost overruns.
That’s when the philanthropists decided to take action.
“I guess the state just ran out of money,” said Cook, a small businessman who moonlights as a member of the Marathon city council. “And as usual Monroe County wouldn’t return calls, so I called Matt and said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Cook said the deal was cemented when the Florida’s Department of Transportation agreed to relinquish naming rights upon the bridge’s reopening.
So far the duo have narrowed their choices to: The Old 2.2 Mile Bridge, The Steve-n-Matt Parkway, and Sparky’s Crossway.
“We were drinking at Sparky’s Landing when we came up with those names, and I think one is gonna stick,” says Cook.
Showalter admits he has no idea how much the overruns may cost, but he is adamant that his commitment to the bridge is legit.
“Even if its $1,000 or more I will come up with the money,” he said. “I’ll trade in my Jeep if I have to.”
Cook, just as committed, isn’t as optimistic.
“I think it could be seven to eight figures, or as much as the new hospital,” he lamented. “But either way, I’m all in. The Bait Shack may be up for sale.”
Neither of their wives could be reached for comment.
The bridge is expected to reopen April 1, 2022.