Manatee River F2 powerboat event hits rough waters

myoung@bradenton.comApril 22, 2014 

Formula 2 Powerboats could be racing down the Manatee River as part of a planned regatta in January 2015 from the organizers of the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta. PROVIDED PHOTO


BRADENTON -- Like the event's competitors, the Formula 2 powerboat regatta scheduled for February on the Manatee River took off racing at its inception, went slightly off course Tuesday, but appears back up to speed.

At issue is the lack of a contractual guarantee the event will take place despite pledges from multiple organizations, including a Manatee County Tourism Development Council vote Monday to recommend spending $175,000 on the event. The county commission will vote May 7 on the allocation.

Tuesday's Bradenton Downtown Development Authority meeting focused on the F2 event. Mike Fetchko of Integrated Strategic Marketing, lead organizer of the regatta, said he is perplexed.

"The memorandum of understanding was submitted weeks ago," he said. "How it's gone to the midnight hour is unclear."

A memorandum of understanding was expected to be approved Tuesday by the DDA, but it was not ready.

City attorney Bill Lisch said a memorandum of understanding is as binding as a contract, and a few items still need clarification. Once the DDA Board approves, the memorandum of understanding would then go to city council.

"This contract has a lot of holes in it," said Lisch, but he assured the DDA it would all be worked out.

Lisch said the primary concerns city council must deal with is liability language and $75,000 in DDA sponsorship for a fireworks show.

"What happens if you can't raise that much?" he asked. "Then the DDA is on the hook for guaranteeing $75,000."

David Gustafson, DDA executive director, said concerns are normal when planning a first-time event of this magnitude.

"These are all items that can be overcome and accomplished," said Gustafson. "I can sleep well at night knowing we are working hard to accomplish this. We just have a multitude of people and agencies that will have eyes on this, so there should be no appearance that we are trying to rush this."

Gustafson suggested a special meeting for 8:30 a.m. Friday in council chambers or the DDA conference room to give everyone a chance to work with the city attorney on concerns.

Fetchko said the language issues can be resolved.

"I don't think these are major issues," said Fetchko. "I understand this is new for you, and newness takes time and patience."

While Fetchko said he was hoping to have a memorandum of understanding to show his business partners the regatta is moving forward, he did leave with a resolution supporting the event along with promises of a deal Friday.

"The train is not coming off the tracks," said DDA Board member Mike Carter.

Fetchko said the timing could be better considering a small army of employees is arriving Wednesday to start planning the regatta.

"It's eight months away, but when it comes to planning an event like this one, it's about the same as having eight days," he said.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said it's important to think about city priorities.

"I'm sure the regatta guys would like to push this faster, but we want to do it at a pace that protects our citizens," said Poston.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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