Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Aims High for 2015



The races may still be a few months away, but sports fans were getting excited yesterday at the Hyatt Regency as the newly renamed Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival was revealed, along with a new partnership, new events and plans for national and international distribution.

“The Sarasota schedule is quite ambitious. It’s something that hasn’t been seen very often in offshore before,” said Jason Miller, general manager of Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix, explaining the new partnership with Powerboat P1 and Aqua Cross. The partnership will bring a whole new set of races to the festival, including hundreds of personal watercraft racers. “It’s something that people have been clamoring for and something we feel will keep spectators interested and show them the awesome product that OPGP is putting out.”

In addition to adding new races, the festival is gearing itself towards being more spectator-friendly in general, setting aside large swaths of beach for race-goers and organizing a more open awards ceremony on Lido Beach. To supplement the races proper, which take place towards the end of the festival, festival director Lucy Nicandri is aiming for 10 days of activities both on land and sea, to capitalize on the influx of tourists.

“We really understand the value of this event,” said Nicole Rissler, Director of Sports at Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, which granted $15,000 to the festival, on top of $82,000 in a TET grant from the County, according to Nicandri. “As we’ve grown into the sports market and with sports tourism exploding over the last 7-8 years, we know that certain events have really been the foundation.”

The festival, partnered with Suncoast Charities for Children, where Nicandri also serves as executive director, brought in an estimated $26 million last year.

The last big announcement came from the festival’s work with Greenlight Productions, securing national coverage on CBS Sports and a digital footprint that could stream the event into as many as 650 million homes worldwide.

“The Sarasota race is always something special that I keep in my memory,” said Mark Niemann, a racer with Phantom 9 Racing, who won the event a couple years back. “It’s a really great event, and if we compare it with the races I’ve been in over the world, we always consider Sarasota one of the best races out there.”

The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival begins June 27, with the races being held July 4 and 5.

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