A suggestion was made last month that the Duval County Tourist Development Council consider ending its financial support of the annual college football bowl game played in Jacksonville.
On Thursday, Gator Bowl Sports President and CEO Rick Catlett lobbied the council’s Policy Subcommittee to create a special category for “signature events” and to support them on an ongoing basis.
The subcommittee was created to develop consistent standards the council can use in granting funds for conventions and events that bring tourism business to Jacksonville and increase bed tax revenue.
Catlett said while the council spends a lot of time talking about “putting heads in beds,” one of the prime directives for the council is to “create an image for our destination.”
Sports events that are covered nationally and internationally, such as the TaxSlayer Bowl (the former Gator Bowl), the University of Florida vs. University of Georgia football game and The Players Championship, bring exposure to the city that is invaluable, he said.
“There’s almost $2 million in value of advertising from the Gator Bowl between October and January each year, and you’re
getting it for $400,000,” said Catlett.
The game has five years remaining on a six-year agreement for the council to grant $400,000-$500,000 per year through 2020. The funds are used to supplement the payouts offered to the teams and are critical to the sustainability of the game, Catlett said.
“The Gator Bowl can’t stand on its own,” he said.
City Council President Bill Gulliford said Catlett’s point about certain events being “signatures” for the city is valid. He recommended the development council work to define criteria for such events and then appropriate funds restricted for the use of supporting the events.
The subcommittee’s policy recommendations will be presented at a special meeting of the
development council to be scheduled before June 30, Gulliford said.