- 2014 - February - 21st -

'Stock car racing on the water' coming to Jacksonville

By Max Marbut, Staff Writer

Jacksonville soon will gain an international motor sport with global exposure when the Powerboat P1 SuperStock Championship series races in the St. Johns River near Memorial Park.

Joel Lamp, the city’s interim director of sports and entertainment, introduced the plan Thursday to the Duval County Tourists Development Council for the June 6-8 race weekend.

“It’s like stock car racing on the water,” Lamp said.

James Durbin, CEO of Powerboat P1, said the racing series began in 2003 in the United Kingdom and has since expanded globally to the United States and Scandinavia.

Races are televised on FOX Sports International and on the Sky Sports network. He estimated the Jacksonville races will receive 2,000 hours of global television exposure in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Also planned are personal watercraft races in the P1 AquaX Championship series.

Durbin said his company estimates it will lose about $67,000 on the Jacksonville races, however, Powerboat P1 manufactures the boats used in the series and the races are part of the company’s marketing plan for its product.

“Racing and television is the marketing arm of that,” Durbin said.

The grant application submitted to the council indicates a potential economic impact of up to $2.5 million for a city hosting a P1 series race event.

Lamp said the first choice of location in the river for the races was Downtown near the Main Street Bridge, but federal regulations prohibit such use between the Mathews and Acosta bridges. Mayport and sites south of the Acosta Bridge were considered, but the city and Powerboat P1 selected the site near Memorial Park for its proximity to Downtown and for its facility as a spectator and festival area, he said.

The city plans to install bleachers in the park and arrange for security and festival vendors, including food trucks, Lamp said.

Durbin was seeking a $50,000 grant from the council to help defray the cost of the event.

He estimated the event will generate at least 800 room nights for P1 Powerboats staff and race teams. That would put the grant amount per room night at more than $62, more than six times the $10 limit the council usually approves.

Durbin said he was looking for “seed money” to create a “legacy event.”

Asked about the future of the event in Jacksonville, Durbin said it is the company’s intention to make the Jacksonville races a “marquee event.”

“The size of the loss won’t determine whether we will come back to Jacksonville,” he said. “I would be comfortable guaranteeing the event comes back to Jacksonville.”

Lamp said of the five cities that hosted P1 SuperStock races last year, four are hosting the events again in 2014.

The company plans to promote the Jacksonville races in late March when the series races in London and a local marketing campaign is scheduled for March and April, Durbin said.

The council unanimously approved a $25,000 grant to be used for advertising and marketing the race weekend.

The council also approved a $25,000 grant for national and regional marketing for the May 22-25 Jacksonville Jazz Festival and an $18,000 grant for the 144th Annual Grand Session of the Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge to help defray costs of ground transportation and local advertising for its April 11-17 convocation.

The Jehovah’s Witness Convention, Christian Congregation was approved for a $30,000 grant to offset the cost of renting Veterans Memorial Arena July 4-6 and July 18-20.


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