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Boat race leaves St. Petersburg in its wake

 
Published Aug. 14, 2002|Updated Sept. 3, 2005

The American Power Boat Association will not hold its championship race along St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront this year, APBA Offshore chairman and CEO Michael Allweiss said Tuesday.

Allweiss had threatened to yank the annual race from St. Petersburg before it was run last October, but ended up going ahead with it. The city had refused both to provide $60,000 worth of free city services and to buy $50,000 of advertising on the event's broadcast.

This year, the race will be held in Freeport, Bahamas, Allweiss said. APBA Offshore, based in St. Petersburg, has been looking for an international venue for a race, anyway, and the financial terms were right in the Bahamas.

"To entice us to bring an event there, obviously there was a very substantial cash commitment to the event and a marketing and promotional commitment to our series," he said. "It's a very similar deal that we have proposed in the past to this community, but for some reason it has not had as much acceptance."

The race will be held in Freeport on Oct. 18-20.

City Development administrator Rick Mussett said he was not surprised at the news. He called the race "a nice event to have, but not at any cost."

"They gave us a rather large funding request, and there wasn't any interest in doing that," Mussett said. "The mayor took a position that he would recommend supporting it to the tune of $15,000, but I think they were looking for more."

City Council member Jay Lasita said the city could offer Allweiss' organization no more in a year with a tight city budget.

"It's my belief we've gone all out to meet this gentleman more than halfway," Lasita said. "It was a good event, but we have lots of good events here. To do more (for APBA) would be unfair to other events."

St. Petersburg has hosted an APBA Offshore race since 1997, and the events have brought tens of thousands of spectators downtown. As many as 10,000 people have packed the city Pier to watch the speedboats.

The city allowed Allweiss to charge people for the best viewing spots on the Pier last year, but he said it still "makes a lot more financial sense for APBA Offshore to go to the Bahamas."

Allweiss said he hopes to bring a race back to Tampa Bay in the future.

"We certainly are not withdrawing from the bay area," he said. "As it stands today, all of our bills have been paid to the city, and we've contributed almost $200,000 to the Pinellas Association for Retarded Children.

"It's disheartening in a way, especially because of the PARC situation, to be receiving so much more support outside of your home base. But the city has other priorities, and I can't fault them for that."

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