MANATEE -- As preparations continue for the Feb. 6 Riverwalk Regatta, promoter Mike Fetchko said efforts have begun to obtain permits to expand the Formula 2 racetrack to the north and move the HydroCross jet ski stunt show and races to the Palmetto side of the Manatee River.
According to Brett Solomon of ECo Consultants, the Palmetto firm pursuing the U.S. Coast Guard marine permit, a pre-application meeting with the various agencies about the permit took place this past week.
"The draft changes to the original permit include elongating the race course to the north to try and distribute it more evenly between the two cities," said Solomon. "The pre-application meeting was just a heads-up and discussion about last year's event, so that's where we are at now. It was a positive meeting and all we're waiting for now is the final course alignment from (Integrated Strategic Marketing) and then we'll submit that to those agencies and begin the formal application process."
Solomon said much of the groundwork was laid for last year's event, so even though the permitting process is starting later this year after a delay related to whether Palmetto was going to participate: "I don't think there will be an issue time-wise. I think it will be around the same time we received the permits last year, which was around the holidays, if not sooner by late fall."
The U.S. Coast Guard marine permit will cover most of the event's needs. ISM must still obtain the Florida Department of Transportation permit to close the Green Bridge, and a Florida Department of Environmental Protection exemption permit and
an Army Corps of Engineers permit to stage the temporary floating dock.
Fetchko, president of Integrated Strategic Marketing, said all permits are being pursued.
The Formula 2 Powerboat Super League is gearing up for a return visit to open its 2016 racing season. Sherron Winer, league co-owner, said there are plans for an expanded field.
"I would anticipate with the enormous success of last year's event that the field will be bigger and we are discussing bringing an additional class of boats," Winer said.
Winer said the Manatee River event has quickly become one of the premier courses for competitors.
"It's an incredible race site and the community is incredibly supportive," she said. "Coming down to Manatee County is a lot of fun and I can tell you that our racers have it marked on their calenders. To come down in February when it's cold everywhere else and do what we love to do is really exciting. It's an incredible way to start the racing season and I can only imagine how great this year's event is going to be."
Fetchko said ISM is finalizing contracts with remaining regatta events, and plans are to split activities between Bradenton and Palmetto, as well as using more of Riverwalk.
Major sponsors returning include Firkins Automotive, Manatee Memorial Hospital, Pittsburgh Pirates/Bradenton Marauders, Bright House Networks, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, Bradenton Herald, SRQ Media, iHeart Radio Group and Bay News 9.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041, or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.