Suncoast boat race could be in jeopardy for 2013

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SARASOTA - A summer tradition on the Suncoast for almost thirty years could be coming to an end this season. Organizers for the Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix say unless they can come up with the money to pay the nearly $80,000 sanction fee to hold the event, the race could easily speed out of Sarasota.

The race has become a Sarasota signature event every July 4th weekend, and Steve Kildahl has been at the helm for every single race. "In the 29 years that the event’s been going on, the economic impact that has been created by the racers and the full festival is a huge impact, I would believe, for the city of Sarasota."

The race had an impact of $14.2 million to be precise just last year.

But losing the race has become a real possibility. On Tuesday, the Sarasota County Commission approved a $10,000 grant and $3,500 worth of in-kind services to help fund the event.

Suncoast Charities for Children, which organizes the race, had requested $100,000.

“It’s harder to get in-kind sponsors and local businesses to step up the way they used to in the past." Kildahl feels that pinch just trying to get sponsors for his own boat.

Event organizers say they're feeling that same pinch on a much larger scale, most notably the $79,200 sanction fee to Super Boat International needed just to hold the race, not to mention everything from security, to helicopters and logistical support.

Commissioner Joe Barbetta had made a motion at Tuesday’s meeting to cover the sanction fee, which was seconded by Commissioner Carolyn Mason. The motion was voted down by the other three members of the commission.

Racers say if it doesn't happen in Sarasota, some other Florida city will snatch it up. "It would be a shame if we were to lose this race, not only for the fact that the four or five local race teams wouldn't be in Sarasota on the 4th, we'd be somewhere else, but the economic impact on the city and the county.”

The attendance at the event has been increasing every year, while the net gain for the charity has been decreasing each year. Organizers say it’s yet another sign of the times and the recovering economy.