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Date of Issue: June 28, 2007

TDC wants Island input for offshore races at Coquina

Pit row
Organizers of the Offshore Super Series boat racing events would like to use this area of Coquina Beach in September 2008 as "pit row" for its boats and crews if a proposed weekend of races is approved by Manatee County. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

A proposal by the Offshore Super Series boat racing organization to the Manatee County Tourism Development Council June 18 to hold a weekend of races in September 2008 at Coquina Beach met with tacit approval from the TDC. However, members want to hear from the three Island cities before entering into any formal agreement to host the event.

OSS organizers wanted the TDC to sign on the dotted line at the meeting and fund the event. The OSS asked the TDC for a $10,000 deposit with a commitment for the remaining $85,000 to be paid to the OSS after a signed contract.

But TDC chairman, County Commissioner Joe McClash, balked at making a hasty decision.

“There’s no economic data, and I’m reluctant to approve anything before the Island cities approve. It’s a great concept, but I think the $10,000 should come from the private sector,” he said.

He suggested the OSS make a formal presentation to each Island city and return to the TDC with those blessings, particularly from Bradenton Beach, which would be the city most affected by the event. Hosting the race would be an “intense obligation” and the TDC would need a solid organizing committee to put on a first-class event, he observed.

TDC member and Holmes Beach City Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens agreed. “I definitely want to hear from the Island cities first.”

TDC member Kent Davis was enthusiastic in his support of the proposal, noting that the race would be broadcast on a national cable network and reach 60 million viewers. “It’s a world-class event to showcase our area.”

But board member David Teitelbaum observed candidly that “money is tough,” particularly with the recent budget constraints placed on the county by the Florida Legislature.

Even though the TDC is funded through the “bed tax” revenues and not Manatee County, Teitelbaum said he would prefer that primary sponsorship come from private sources in the community, not the TDC.

Misty Velasquez of the OSS said the event should attract between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators for the weekend races. Racing along Coquina Beach is a plus because fans can see the offshore action from the beach, she said.

While the “free advertising” of Anna Maria Island on the network is a bonus, the major winners will be the Island’s restaurants and hotels, she said.

But the TDC would like some hard economic data in addition to approval from the Island cities, McClash observed, and it needs that information rather quickly.

The OSS wants a decision by August to begin preparing for a September 2008 race date, and Anna Maria Island is not the only host location under consideration, Velasquez said.

The TDC, however, declined to be backed into a corner. There are a litany of issues to consider, not the least of which are parking, law enforcement and rest room facilities on Coquina Beach, McClash noted.

To further complicate the proposal, the OSS would want the southern half of Coquina Beach blocked off to be used as the pit area for the race boats and crews.

The county commission would have to approve any contract with the OSS.