The Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix will take place in Sarasota again this summer after all, with the Sarasota County Commission voting unanimously on Tuesday to provide $79,200 for the event.
The commissioners, who last month had offered less than half that amount, will also provide $3,500 in so-called “in-kind services” to support the race.
Festival officials had set an April 11 deadline to raise the money or shelve the boat races, which are held over the Independence Day weekend.
Suncoast Charities for Children, the group behind the boat race and festival, has held the event each summer for nearly three decades but struggled this year to generate necessary financial support.
“Very few Sarasota businesses came forward to support us or donate since we announced we were struggling to find the funding,” said Lucy Nicandri, the festival’s director. “We are very fortunate that we got the county to approve this.”
The overall cost of the 10-day festival, which includes the boat races, a fireworks display and a boat parade down Sarasota’s Main Street, is $150,000, Nicandri said.
Of that, the boat race costs about $100,000 for liability insurance, fees paid to racers, staff on the beach and on the water, marine mammal control and helicopter and crane rentals.
The balance funds the festival’s annual fireworks display. Much of that cost this year, however, is being covered by Marina Jack restaurant, Nicandri said.
The annual event has an economic impact of more than $14.3 million and generates 13,000 room nights of hotel activity, according to data from the charity.
Since the charity’s stated deadline, Nicandri said that only $1,500 had been raised from local residents and business owners, even though the Sarasota Area Sports Alliance had sent out community notices to spur more donations.
But even before the county’s action Tuesday, the charity had some success in fundraising, albeit primarily from government sources.
At a news conference in late March, two attendees donated $11,000 to the boat race.
Last month, the county had offered $28,500 to help cover costs, but race officials said the amount was not sufficient and turned down the offer.
The charity also received a $15,000 grant from Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism agency, and nearly $36,600 from the City of Sarasota, also for “in-kind” services.
That amount is more than $5,000 higher than what the city donated in 2012, Nicandri said.
Longtime sponsors Sarasota Ford and Gold Coast Eagle Distributing also have donated again this year. Gold Coast’s donation totals $35,000.
Dana Gourley, a Sarasota resident and member of the local powerboat racing team Reds Offshore Racing, was relieved to find out that the event would continue in Sarasota this year.
“This is such a key race in our season and it is right in our own backyard,” Gourley said. “There is a sense of community at the boat races, and it’s important that we continue to support that.”
Even so, the race may not be able to count on so much government support going forward.
County commissioners discussed budgeting sanction fee money for the boat race in future years, but that remains undecided for now.
Commissioners also said Tuesday during a meeting in Venice that this year’s funding comes with a stipulation that the charity not seek additional county money — other than sanction fees — in the future, Nicandri said.
Still, she was gratified to be able to stop fundraising for this year.
“The festival and race have been a tradition in this community for 28 years, and we are extremely grateful to both the county and city commissions for their support,” Nicandri said.