MANATEE -- As organizers prepare to ask for official approval in the next couple of weeks to stage a 2016 racing boat regatta on the Manatee River, there are obstacles to overcome with early numbers showing taxpayers paid more for the inaugural event last month than expected.
Sponsorships and a percentage of the food vendor sales were expected to cover costs for Bradenton and Palmetto, but fell short by at least $50,000.
City officials during the approval process for the Bradenton Area Riverwalk Regatta said the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority would be responsible for any shortfalls.
Bradenton City Clerk Carl Callahan said he was unsure if Bradenton City Council would absorb the expenses, saying: "That was never promised."
Regardless of who ends up paying the final bill, it's still
on the taxpayer's dime.
The only specific expense is $80,000 the city of Bradenton spent for garbage pickup and other public works functions.
Similar numbers from Palmetto and Manatee County are not yet available. Security expenses are not in yet either.
The total price tag to taxpayers could reach between $100,000 and $150,000. Those local tax dollars do not include the original investment by the Manatee Tourist Development Council, which contributed $175,000 in hotel-occupancy taxes paid by visitors for the regatta.
Gustafson said even if the final expenditure is upward of $150,000 of local tax dollars spent between the two cities and Manatee County, it was well worth the investment.
"There aren't many governments that can spend $150,000 and get an $8-million return for its citizens," said Gustafson. "And that's not even taking into consideration what the regatta will do for the city long term."
While expenses are more than expected, Gustafson said he believes costs for the 2016 regatta will be cut after eliminating one-time start-up expenses and getting more sponsors.
"I heard from investors before the regatta who said this just isn't their cup of tea and wanted to sit it out and see what happens," said Gustafson. "Those same investors are now saying: 'We need to talk.' That's what I like to hear."
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant once again expressed hope a second regatta will be handled differently considering the city's expenditures and businesses citing financial losses.
"It absolutely can't be done the same way again," she said.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.