Success at Offshore Grand Prix translates to economy

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SARASOTA – The July 4th weekend is a wrap, and it was closed out in speedy fashion as thousands gathered for the Offshore Super Boat Grand Prix races on Sunday. Early accounts show this race, which nearly fell victim to budget issues, was a total success for those involved and the local economy.

The event brought in millions of dollars to our area, and businesses on the Suncoast say it's a great boost during summer, when things can get a little slow.

"We've got two weeks of clean-up and going through all the numbers, but right now based on all the crowds and the turnout we're hoping for some very positive results this year for the charity." Race director Lucy Nicandri says despite some touch and go weather, it looks like this year's race was a success. "All indicators as far as attendance and the teams that were here are looking really good."

Last year's race hauled in about $14 million for the area, and judging by this year's crowds that number is expected to go up. "The crowds were tremendous, I think there was a little bit more people here than last year."

Downtown restaurants like Mattison's City Grille were seeing sales higher than normal for this time of year. "We had a little bit more extra change in our pockets," says Victoria Fisher.

Shops on St. Armands Circle, just blocks away from the offshore action, got a summer boost as well. "We know the circle kind of slows down in the summer, so with the foot traffic picking up it’s definitely a fun weekend for us," says Samantha Beebe of Influence.

Despite the apparent success, it was just a few months ago that budget shortfalls had organizers wondering whether the race would even happen this year. They say they're already working to avoid that from happening in 2014. "We've had talks about budgeting for next year, which again is very positive and very critical to keep this event going," says Nicandri.

Last year, this race generated about 13,000 room nights for area hotels. Judging by crowd numbers here, they are expecting that number to rise along with the revenue brought in from this event, which remember goes to benefit Suncoast charities for children.

As for the final economic impact numbers for this year, each year organizers commission a study, which takes into account all the different factors that go into the event. They say that report and its finding should be out in the next two weeks.