This year's inaugural Bradenton Area Riverwalk Regatta proved to be a huge success for the community. Naturally, Manatee County and the City of Bradenton are on board for a second one in February 2016. The Palmetto City Commission's continuing hesitation to support this event is puzzling.
Political concerns about city businesses losing money this year during the one-day shutdown of the Green Bridge did not generate a single response from business owners during a public meeting on the issue. Even so, event advocates are addressing that with major overtures to ensure a greater economic impact on Palmetto next time around.
The regatta pumped an estimated $8 million into the local economy and drew 80,000 spectators. And it brought a crowd-pleasing mixture of entertainment: a Powerboat Super League Series (think races of small super-fast boats racing around pylons) and SuperCross (personal watercraft) competitions, and assorted other festivities (concerts headlined by Jefferson Starship, a youth fun zone and more).
Event organizers and a revered Manatee County community civic group have promised more attention on Palmetto after this year's failed attempt at a concert to draw people to the city
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Yet Palmetto commissioners still waver, despite these developments:
The DeSoto Historical Society plans to move its popular youth fishing tournament to the Palmetto pier. That's only one of the dozen "fun and engaging" events that the organization put on the table to help the city's businesses and restaurants profit from the event.
Integrated Strategic Marketing, the promoter of the regatta, is willing to put the HydroCross race course on the Palmetto side of the Manatee River. Plus, the organization is looking at extending the F2 powerboat race course closer to Palmetto and shifting the fireworks base camp away from the fishing pier, which would open prime spots to spectators.
The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau intends to boost tourism funding for the event to $200,000, an increase of $25,000 to help promote events in Palmetto.
Integrated Strategic Marketing needs to know now, not later, whether Palmetto is on board. At this time last year, the company knew the green light had been signaled and could line up everything. Now there's a yellow caution light.
Planning for an event as big as this needs time. Palmetto should make a decision now on either joining this event or abandoning participation. The city has won big commitments.
The Florida Department of Transportation could still approve the closure of the Green Bridge for spectators, even without city support.
Palmetto city commissioners do not control the fate of the regatta. The event will go on. Commissioners control city acceptance of generous DeSoto Historical Society and Integrated Strategic Marketing offers. They should agree, for the benefit of the city. This is a good deal.