BRADENTON -- The countdown to green this week hit less than six months before the Formula 2 Powerboat Super League series competitors crank their boats up to 100 mph while racing across the Manatee River.
Organizers appear confident with the planning for the event, scheduled for Feb. 5-6, although much remains uncertain. For instance, organizers have not yet acquired needed environmental permits or permission from the Florida Department of Transportation for a partial closure of the Green Bridge for spectators.
Organizers met with law enforcement, fire and public works representatives from both Bradenton and Palmetto on Tuesday to begin planning the logistics of the event, which also will include a 5K run, a Frisbee dog show, a Christian music concert in Palmetto and a fireworks show "much bigger than the shows that are done here on the Fourth of July," said Mike Fetchko, president of Integrated Strategic Marketing.
Fetchko says he has a team of experienced employees who will provide sanitation services throughout the event, as well as up to 25 private security personnel who will help with crowd control and act as additional eyes and ears for local law enforcement.
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Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Elliott Falcione attended a recent regatta in Pittsburgh and called it a "first-class, family-oriented event. We are excited to bring this event here. All of the local governments feel good about this event. The first time you do something like this, it's always a challenge, but I can assure you that everyone is communicating very well."
Falcione noted that not a penny of local tax dollars will be used and the event is being funded with tourism dollars and corporate sponsorship. A third-party study has estimated the Manatee event could draw up to 100,000 people, with an estimated economic impact of $8 million to $10 million.
Some city officials are concerned that there will still be some costs to taxpayers in terms of using law enforcement officers and public works personnel for event cleanup. Falcione said there is money budgeted, but a well-planned "food row" being organized by the Florida Restaurants and Lodging Association is also designed to create a revenue stream to help cover those costs.
Other concerns remain focused around the Green Bridge closure. A permit application signed by both cities and submitted to FDOT calls for the complete closure of the northbound lanes from Friday night after the concert through Saturday night, and a complete closure of the bridge for the fireworks display. The Palmetto fishing pier is also in the discussion and will likely be off limits for the fireworks show.
Bradenton Downtown Development Authority Executive Director David Gustafson expressed confidence that the permitting process, now started, will be concluded on time.
"Everything is very fluid and that will happen a lot during this first year," he said. "We very well might say something today that could change in two weeks as far as the details, but we just need to stay fluid and open-minded."
In the meantime, the event is a go, according to Fetchko.
"They are coming," he said. "We looked at this for over a year and are very happy with the way everything is coming together. We do events much bigger than this and I am 100 percent confident in the turnkey efficiency of this. This is all going to come together."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.