Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Motor coach group maps demands for return of rally to Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — Luring the Southeast Area Family Motor Coach Association back to Hernando County could be a pricey proposition.

County officials have received a formal request from the group's president for improvements that would be required at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport before the group would consider returning for its annual winter rally.

County Commissioner Dave Russell said he believes the county has to be sure the financial benefits would outweigh what could be significant costs. County Administrator Len Sossamon said his staff is gathering cost details, but his initial thought was that the price tag would be in the millions.

The organization is asking for 1,000 or more 25- by 50-foot pads to accommodate motor homes, with at least half of those equipped to provide electrical, water and sewer hookups. Four more dump stations would also be needed for dry campers that have water hookups, wrote Jim Duncan, president of the association.

In addition, the association needs a building that could seat between 2,000 and 3,000 people for entertainment purposes and a second building for use by vendors and for workshops and seminars. The second building would need to be able to hold 300 vendors with 10- by 10-foot spaces, with electricity available.

"Most of the above has been discussed with you and are the main necessities for putting on a rally,'' Duncan wrote to Sossamon. "If you were able to provide the above, not only would FMCA grace your area but many others as well."

He went on to say that the group enjoyed its stay in Hernando for the past 16 years "and we hope to return to your area in the future.''

Just before this year's rally, the group notified the county that it was disappointed that Hernando officials had not made improvements for its stay and that the 2015 rally would move to Sarasota. Seeing the annual rally as an economic boon for the community, county officials agreed to consider the group's needs, but have some concerns.

"The first thing is that we are an airport,'' Russell said. "It was great to have the motor coaches there all those years . . . but in terms of making these kinds of improvements, it would be difficult.''

The county would likely have to use tourist tax dollars or general fund money to pay for nonaviation improvements, he said.

"Obviously, we'd love to accommodate, but it has to be cost effective,'' Russell said. "It's a big ask.''

The association would have to make a long-term commitment, he said. But he also noted that participation in the rally has been declining. Where several thousand motor coaches were involved in the early years, now attendance is in the hundreds.

"The new generation is more inclined to travel differently,'' Russell said. "They stay in hotels rather than tooling around in motor coaches.''

Sossamon said the county staff will evaluate and take the issue to the County Commission. The bottom line, he said, is, "Do we want to build something that is permanent for a temporary event?''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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