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The Florida Country Superfest resulted in a $23 million economic impact, according to a University of North Florida study.

Cutting grant for Florida Country Superfest could keep concert from returning to Jacksonville

By Max Marbut, Staff Writer

The second year of Florida Country Superfest in Jacksonville will receive half as much in grant funding as did the inaugural event, which could affect the concert’s future in Jacksonville.

The grant request to the Tourist Development Council for the 2015 show was $300,000, the same as for this year’s production.

The council granted the company a $200,000 reimbursement grant for the first year and on Thursday approved $100,000 for next year’s show.

Fans attending the two-day country music show at EverBank Field booked 19,000 hotel rooms, resulting in $3.8 million in revenue.

Joel Lamp, city interim director of sports and entertainment, represented New Orleans-based Festival Productions Inc. at the presentation.

He said Superfest could become Jacksonville’s fourth annual “iconic” tourism event, joining the Gator Bowl (now Tax

Slayer Bowl), the Florida-Georgia football game and The Players.

“Obviously it was a great event,” said tourism council member Fred Pozin. “We gave them some seed money last year and it was hugely successful. Now, they’re asking for $300,000.”

Member M.G Orender asked how many years the promoter will ask for grant funds from the tourism council, which is in the process of amending its policy to limit “seed money” for new events to three years.

“Our goal is to be done after 2015,” Lamp said.

When the $100,000 grant for the second Superfest was proposed, City Council member Richard Clark said it was a “perfect model” for the tourism council.

“Year one, we take a risk; year two, we back down a sizable chunk; year three, they’re out of TDC,” he said.

Visit Jacksonville President and CEO Paul Astleford said reducing the grant for Superfest 2015 may put having the show at EverBank Field in jeopardy. Festival Productions has made no firm commitment to keep the show in Jacksonville.

“The money we give him is his profit,” Astleford said. “If we demonstrate we want him here, he’s back. If we give him $100,000, he’s gone.”

Lamp agreed offering the promoter $100,000 could affect the future of keeping Superfest at EverBank Field.

“He can take it wherever he wants to take it,” said Lamp. “$100,000 will make for some difficult conversation.”

In other action, the tourism council approved a $250,000 advertising and marketing grant for The Players Regional Tourism Cooperative and a $65,000 grant to support Student Safety Zones for the Florida-Georgia football game.

Two festivals were successful in seeking funding.

Jaxtoberfest will receive a $25,000 grant for the second year of the fall family festival at the Shipyards property Downtown along the St. Johns River.

The second year of Lannadoo Celtic Festival at Jacksonville Beach was awarded a $20,000 grant.

Scheduled the weekend before Thanksgiving, festival producer Eddie Berrang said 8,000 people attended the one-day event last year and he expects attendance in November to at least double with the event expanded to two days.

mmarbut@baileypub.com

(904) 356-2466

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