Riverwalk powerboat regatta proposal cruises forward

myoung@bradenton.comMay 8, 2014 

BRADENTON -- After hitting some early turbulence, the proposed Formula 2 powerboat regatta on the Manatee River next February has sailed back on course.

Work continues to solidify an agreement between the city of Bradenton and regatta organizers before the city council takes up the contract Wednesday.

Weeks worth of negotiations have laid to rest many concerns about the city's financial involvement in the regatta, according to City Clerk Carl Callahan.

The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority is spearheading the Riverwalk project, and if any financial burden was created, it would fall on the DDA, such as raising $75,000 in sponsorship funds, DDA Board members said they knew sponsorship funds would be a sticking point for the council, however, that concern has been alleviated.

"The final version the DDA approved is to 'make best efforts' to raise $75,000," said Callahan. If the DDA cannot raise the entire amount, the promoter assumes responsibility to raise the money.

Callahan confirmed what DDA Executive Director David Gustafson said at an April DDA Board meeting: Sponsors are ready to come on board, but are waiting for certainty the event will occur.

"So it's not like we are starting from scratch," said Callahan.

During a Wednesday work

shop, Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo asked about the city's financial risks associate with the event. Callahan said just basic costs such as added law enforcement, "which the city would do for any large event."

He said promoters will have up to 14 cleanup crews and their own security personnel "but their jobs will be to call the police if they see something that requires law enforcement."

Much hinges on the comfort level of city attorney Bill Lisch, who blocked early requests from the promoters, Integrated Strategic Marketing. The company initially wanted more from the city and Lisch rejected those requirements, which caused renewed negotiations.

Lisch said he was much more comfortable now but acknowledged unknowns remain.

"We haven't done anything like this event before," said Lisch. "Something is bound to pop up so I can't guarantee it won't cost the city anything, but we have certainly limited our exposure."

Vice Mayor Bemis Smith said he supports the regatta with limited city involvement. Smith said organizers need to become self-sustaining in three to five years and not a continued drag on the city for even minimal costs.

The only required cost leading into the latest round of negotiations was for the DDA to pay $11,700 for permits, but the final document, according to Lisch, guarantees permitting costs from DDA sponsorship funds.

More hurdles remain.

While the Manatee County Tourism Development Council has recommended spending $175,000 for the event, the funding must still be approved by the Manatee County Board of Commissioners. The vote was expected to take place Tuesday but did not make the agenda.

That money would include $50,000 for a contract deposit to promoters by June 1 for planning and operations, $50,000 deposit due Aug. 1 to secure a contract with Zambelli International for a fireworks show, $50,000 by Oct. 1 secure a BMX dirt bike show, dog show and concerts.

Gustafson said the final $25,000 will go to the Bradenton Visitors and Convention Bureau to promote the event.

Remaining events such as a water ski show, jet ski show, F2 races and operational costs are expected to be covered by sponsors.

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

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