2020 races set for June 28
The 2019 Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival had an overall economic impact on Sarasota County of $29.9 million, up $10 million from the 2018 figure, Lucy Nicandri, executive director of Suncoast Charities for Children, has reported to the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council (TDC).
The events in June and July marked the 35th anniversary of the festival, Nicandri told the TDC members on Nov. 21. “[We have] seen a lot of changes over the years.”
Moreover, she pointed out, “We could not do this without the county support.”
A number of years ago, the County Commission agreed to an annual contribution to the festival because of its economic impact.
The charity uses Research Data Services of Tampa, Nicandri explained to the TDC members, to gather information from attendees during the events it sponsors; then, the results go to the county’s tourism office — Visit Sarasota County — which runs the data through its matrix to determine the figures she was presenting to the council.
The estimated number of room nights in accommodations for festival attendees was 16,800, Nicandri noted. Furthermore, she said, one question the research firm always asks is whether non-residents who are present at the events plan to come back the following year. This time, she said, 86.8% reported that they planned to return to Sarasota for the 2020 festival.
Nicandri did point out, “This sport over the years has been challenged.” The good news for the 2019 races, she said, was that they had “two very strong sanctioning organizations” — the Offshore Powerboat Association and Powerboat P1.
The races were televised by CBS Sports and FOX Sports, she continued, with a total media valuation of $1,982,710. She stressed that that figure was for the telecasts only. It did not encompass the commercial spots, including 30-second ads produced for Visit Sarasota County, Nicandri said.
“I still see the show running in a number of areas,” she added, noting that its total reach was 65 million households in the United States and 400 million spread among 150 other countries.
TDC Vice Chair Norman Schimmel told her he had caught the races on TV just the previous week.
Additionally, Nicandri said, 301,276 people watched the races via live streaming on Facebook.
“A big thing that we really saw a jump in this year,” she continued, was the number of competitors. The event had a record number of 67 boats from all over the United States and other parts of the world, she pointed out. Among the international teams, she said, were those from Australia, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Italy, Canada, Wales and England. “We want to continue to grow the international participation.”
As for the impact of the events on the five charities Suncoast supports: Nicandri first noted that the organization has helped the local nonprofits construct several buildings over the past 35 years, thanks to proceeds from the festival.
Most of that revenue, she continued, comes from people participating in activities that take place before the races. “The race budget is pretty much … break-even.”
This year, Nicandri said, “roughly $110,000” was the total going to the charities. “So we were very pleased with that.”
Nicandri noted that she had another bit of very good news to share. For years, she said, she and her team have been lobbying to move the races to a date farther from the July Fourth holiday. As a result, she added, the 2020 races will be conducted on June 28. “I think Virginia [Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County] and her staff are very excited about that.”
Haley has reported in years past that many visitors — especially from other parts of Florida — traditionally come to Sarasota County for July Fourth celebrations. Having more of a separation between the holiday and the Suncoast Powerboat Festival, Haley has said, would be expected to increase the number of tourists in the area during late June and early July.
Referring to the 2020 date, Nicandri told the TDC members, “Hopefully, [that will put] some heads in beds the weekend before the July Fourth holiday.” She was referring to the term Visit Sarasota County staff members use in regard to the county’s “bed tax” revenue, which is charged on accommodations rented for six months or less time.
Nicandri thanked Haley and the Visit Sarasota County staff for all their help with the annual festival.
The environmental aspect
Another big initiative that has grown, especially over the past 10 years, she pointed out to the TDC members, is the effort to protect the environment on Lido Key Beach, where spectators gather to watch the races.
Approximately four years ago, Nicandri noted, a Share the Beach campaign was launched. As part of that, Suncoast conducts an annual beach cleanup after every festival, she said.
In fact, she pointed out, the Sarasota Police Department was recognized a few weeks ago at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference for its excellence in environmental stewardship as a result of its collaboration with Suncoast to protect the Lido environment.
A Police Department news release explained that, in late October, the department’s legal adviser, Joe Polzak, accepted the IACP Chief David Cameron Leadership in Environmental Crimes Award on behalf of Police Chief Bernadette DiPino. The conference was held in Chicago.
“Lido Key is the primary viewing area for the [Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix],” a Sarasota Police Department (SPD) news release pointed out. The period encompassing the July Fourth holiday, the release noted, “is also the peak nesting weekend for five species of marine turtles … on Florida beaches. All five species … are threatened or endangered species, and the increased maritime and beach spectator traffic from the festival has been shown to significantly impact turtles, leading to a complete abandonment of nesting activity during the festival period.”
The release further explained that the black skimmer, a threatened bird, also nests on Lido Key during the Grand Prix time period.
“Through partnerships with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Audubon of Florida, and Save Our Seabirds, the Sarasota Police Department launched a Share the Beach initiative to provide beach and maritime security operations to ensure festival activity was not interfering with the nesting activity on Lido Key,” the release pointed out. “The collaboration has resulted in the complete restoration of full marine turtle nesting activity during the event and a Black Skimmer nesting colony that is one of the largest in the state of Florida.
“We work closely with them,” Nicandri said of the Police Department as well as with Mote Marine Laboratory and Audubon of Florida.
According to a slide Nicandri showed the TDC members, more than 140 volunteers participated in the annual Lido Beach Cleanup on Saturday, Aug. 17.
“That’s great stuff,” TDC Chair Schimmel said at the conclusion of the presentation.