Super boat festival’s economic impact detailed

Suncoast Charities for Children pays for the annual July Fourth fireworks on the city's bayfront. Photo by Norman Schimmel

The 2011 Suncoast Offshore Super Boat Grand Prix Festival had an estimated economic impact on Sarasota County of about $12.6 million, with $6.8 million of that in direct expenditures, the Sarasota County Commission learned during its regular meeting May 9 in Sarasota.

The festival, which features high-speed boat races as well as July Fourth fireworks, filled 12,680 hotel room nights, Lucy Nicandri, vice president of Suncoast Charities for Children, which produces the event, told the commission.

Nicandri is also the festival’s director.

The 2012 event will be held in Sarasota County June 23 through July 4, featuring more than 19 events.

This year, for the first time, Nicandri said, Suncoast Charities also commissioned an economic impact study for Thunder By the Bay, a popular event for motorcycle enthusiasts that it holds every January in Sarasota. The figures showed the economic impact of that event was $6.2 million, she said, with $3.2 million in direct expenditures and an estimated 2,200 room nights.

“When you look at close to $19 million of economic impact annually … it’s pretty impressive,” Commissioner Joe Barbetta told her.

“There are other cities and communities that are looking to take this [super boat] festival and the July Fourth [holiday] events,” Nicandri said, but “we certainly want to keep it in Sarasota.”

She pointed out, “A lot of the general public still thinks that the race and the fireworks are funded by the city and private entities.” However, she said, “the charity has to go out and raise that money independently.”

The fireworks cost about $36,000, she pointed out, adding that the organization also has to cover the cost of medical and rescue personnel for the super boat race, along with race-sanctioning fees and other expenses. Yet, the public gets to watch the race, the fireworks and the annual boat parade in downtown Sarasota for free, Nicandri noted.

“We were facing challenges financially” because the economic climate “is still not where it needs to be,” she added. That was all the more reason Suncoast Charities was grateful to the commissioners for the financial support the county was providing for the 2012 event, she said.

Along with private and corporate sponsorship funds, Nicandri said, Suncoast Charities this year received $15,000 from the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau through its Sports Commission budget, and Jason Puckett, the SCVB’s sports director, had applied for a grant from the Florida Sports Foundation to help cover costs of the festival. That grant is expected to range between $5,000 and $15,000.

Commissioner Nora Patterson pointed out, “For years, the city [of Sarasota] actually picked up the bulk of the fireworks’ cost.”

Nicandri responded that the charity was getting assistance from Marina Jack Inc. for the July Fourth festivities, and “the city did give us in-kind services [this year], both for police and public works, for the [super boat] parade, which was a huge cost savings for us.”

Asked by Chairwoman Christine Robinson to provide some details on the work of Suncoast Charities, Nicandri explained that the organization had been serving Sarasota County nonprofits for 27 years, having used past festival proceeds to build facilities from North Port to the city of Sarasota. It continues to maintain those facilities, she said. Among them are buildings at the Loveland Center in Venice, Community Haven in Sarasota and Oak Park School, Nicandri said.

The charity’s website,, points out that the organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit serving children with special needs and their families.

“You certainly have built incredible facilities for these various entities,” Patterson told her.

For more details about the 2012 Offshore Super Boat Grand Prix Festival in Sarasota, visit