Economic impact on county of annual Grand Prix festival more than $37 million in 2016

Event continues to rank No. 1 on Visit Sarasota County list in terms of financial contributions to the community, research shows

The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix continues to draw thousands of tourists to Sarasota County each summer. Image from the website

With its 33rd event ahead this summer, Suncoast Charities for Children’s Grand Prix Festival has seen its economic impact on Sarasota County rise about 5% year after year, the nonprofit’s executive director, Luci Nicandri, recently told Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Council (TDC).

The overall figure for 2016 was more than $37 million, she said during the council’s Feb. 16 meeting. Moreover, the festival has for years been the top county tourism event, based on its economic impact, Nicandri pointed out. Last year, it was No. 1 out of 136, she said.

During the 2016 festival, Nicandri noted, the average stay of visitors was four nights, with a total of 18,300 room nights generated. Those tourists contributed $158,000 to the county’s Tourist Development Tax collections, she added.

According to the research undertaken by a consultant on behalf of Suncoast Charities, the total amount of local option sales tax revenue generated by the event was even higher: $236,170.94.

Nicandri indicated that the consultant uses the same formula Visit Sarasota County utilizes to factor the totals.

Heading into the 2017 event — scheduled from June 24 through July 2 — Nicandri pointed out that TV coverage will be expanded from 137 countries to 193 around the world.

Lucy Nicandri. File photo

The company P1, which sanctions the Suncoast Powerboat Grand Prix, has a contract with the Fox Sports regional network that has led to at least 50 airings of the one-hour show comprising highlights of the 2016 races, she told the council members. That allows millions of people to get a look at Sarasota and the surrounding area, she added.

Through the TV broadcasts, she pointed out, P1 is expected to be able to reach more than 70 million unique households this year.

P1 is the largest marine motor sports brand, Nicandri explained, which is the primary reason Suncoast Charities chose two years ago to make it the event sponsor.

Along with the benefits of economic development, Nicandri continued, the festival’s marine conservation plan has sparked the interest of the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami. It is “using [the plan] as a model for other high-speed water events in the state of Florida” and other areas, she noted. “So that was great news to us.”

Furthermore, Nicandri said, Suncoast Charities once again this year will publish its “Green Guide,” which encourages event spectators and participants to protect the natural environment. Suncoast also will print and distribute Share the Beach brochures to encourage manatee and turtle protection, she said, and it will sell Share the Beach T-shirts, with the proceeds going to the nonprofit.

Yet another facet of the festival, she noted, is the design and implementation of lesson plans for students in the Sarasota County School District, educating them about environmental responsibility and ocean conservation.

Each year, the nonprofit also conducts a big cleanup on Lido Beach, she continued. That is the area where thousands of spectators gather to watch the races.

As for the proceeds from the event: Nicandri explained that over the past four years, Suncoast has provided $414,000 in grants to five nonprofits in North Port, Venice and Sarasota that serve 8,000 clients with special needs and families of those clients.

Suncoast Charities lists these accomplishments from 2009 through 2015 on its website.

Since the festival began in 1986, a graphic showed, the event has made possible the construction of facilities with a value of more than $20 million for clients of The Haven, Children First and The Florida Center, as well as the Special Olympics, for which those organizations pay only $1 per year in rent.

Regarding the 2017 festival: Nicandri said the autograph event featuring the team members and the popular “Boats on Main” block party will be held on June 30. Two days of racing will be conducted — on July 1 and 2. Along with the boat races, she added, Jet Ski competitions will be featured.

Nicandri and her staff have been working with City of Sarasota staff, she noted, to make sure Suncoast Charities is aware of any construction or other issues that the nonprofit will need to take into consideration in planning particular events.

Nicandri also took the opportunity to thank the Sarasota County Commission for its annual grant of $85,000, which has made it possible for Suncoast Charities to continue the festival.