County commissioners have approved “major event” grants of $73,000 apiece for a Titusville air show and a Cocoa Beach powerboat race, hoping that the popular spectacles will bring more tourism to the region.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve grants for the Thunder on Cocoa Beach Super Boat Grand Prix powerboat race and the Space Coast International Air Show at Space Coast Regional Airport. Both events are scheduled for the same weekend in April.
Money for the grants comes from revenue raised by the county’s 5% tourist development tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.
Commissioner John Tobia voted against the grants, which had been unanimously recommended by the advisory Brevard County Tourist Development Council and the TDC’s Cultural Committee.
Tobia said after the vote that he generally opposes this type of use of tourist tax money for grants. He said the money instead should go toward advertising the Space Coast to potential tourists or for upgrades to county parks that are draws for tourists.
Tobia also voted against a series of 10 smaller grants for sports events designed to attract tourists. Those grants, totaling $86,188.30, previously had been approved by the Tourist Development Council and the TDC’s Cultural Committee.
County Commission Chair Kristine Zonka voted in favor of the major event grants, but indicated that she has some concerns about the grants program.
“I would just caution these are large amounts of money,” Zonka said, adding that the Tourist Development Council might want to take another look at the major event grant guidelines.
Zonka said she doesn’t mind supporting the events, but doesn’t want the county to “bankroll them.”
If the latter is the case, Zonka said, the county should put the air shows, for example, out to a competitive bidding process.
The powerboat race is scheduled for Sunday, May 22, off the shore of Cocoa Beach, with related events planned for May 19, 20 and 21 in Cocoa Beach and Port Canaveral. More than 65 powerboat teams are expected.
The air show is scheduled for May 21 and 22 at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds Air Demonstration Squadron is lined up to be the headline performers at the show.
According to data compiled for the Space Coast Office of Tourism by Intermix, which tracks cellular phone usage in specific geographic areas:
- The last Thunder on Cocoa Beach boat race and related events, held May 20-23, 2021, attracted 255,794 visitors, 71.6% who were from outside Brevard County. The event had an estimated total economic impact of $36.63 million.
- The last air show held at Space Coast Regional Airport, held March 15-17, 2019, attracted 99,793 visitors, 49.9% who were from outside Brevard County. The event had an estimated total economic impact of $9.97 million.
The Tourist Development Council major event grant program is a new program administered by the Space Coast Office of Tourism.
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The program was established for large special events that attract a minimum of 25,000 attendees, with at least 25% of attendees from outside of Brevard County. The event also must have a return on investment of at least 40-to-1 for the grant and must spend at least 40% of its marketing budget outside of Brevard.
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“This will be achieved by maximizing the Space Coast Office of Tourism’s marketing resources to provide a platform for Brevard’s organizations through collaborative event and marketing support,” the Office of Tourism said in a memo to county commissioners.
Prior to the County Commission vote in support of the grants, commissioners heard a public comment from Cocoa Beach resident Janice Scott, urging the county to increase its support of the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, which will have its 25th-annual festival in 2022.
Scott said the birding festival — which will be held Feb 2-6 — is “a great family activity” that has “a huge impact on tourism.” She said the tourism draw will increase now that the event will be headquartered in Cape Canaveral. It previously was based in Titusville.
Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis noted that the birding festival would have to meet the criteria of having 25,000 or more attendees and meet other program criteria to be considered for a special event grant.
The birding festival and its parent organization, the Brevard Nature Alliance, in September did get approval from the County Commission for a $3,333.33 grant through a separate cultural support grant program for arts and cultural organizational and events. In all, 17 organizations and events split the $150,000 allocated for that program, funded by the tourist development tax.