Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lack of Reservation Scuttles Boat Show; Organizers Fail to Reach Deal with Festival Promoters to Secure Space

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lack of Reservation Scuttles Boat Show; Organizers Fail to Reach Deal with Festival Promoters to Secure Space

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Hong

Organizers of this weekend's Southeast US Boat Show announced Monday that the event is canceled, saying they were unable to secure access to its longtime venue at Metropolitan Park.

The organizers, Current Productions, never had a contract with the city to hold the event at the park this weekend, according to the event's founder and city officials. Instead, they were hoping to reach a deal with the promoters of an upcoming music festival, who reserved the space last year to prepare for their event the following week.

Those negotiations fell through in recent days, leaving the boat show organizers - along with the estimated 150 vendors who planned to showcase boats and other marine equipment - high and dry.

"This event is the economic engine for the boat industry, and a lot of other vendors that are ancillary to that industry," said Jimmy Hill, the event founder and owner of Current Productions, at a news conference. "We're devastated by it."

Because the event's primary attraction is showcasing boats in the water, holding it at Metropolitan Park is crucial because of its marina, Hill said. The event has been held in Jacksonville for 21 years and also features live music, a bikini contest and food.

While Hill and City Hall both agree that Current Productions never had reservations to hold the event this weekend, each side offered different explanations why that was the case.

According to city spokeswoman Marsha Oliver, the city notified Hill last June that he couldn't reserve dates for the 2017 event until he paid an outstanding $12,000 balance for the 2016 event. After he failed to pay the balance, city officials sent him a reminder in October that included a prospective payment plan.

Current Productions sent the city a check in December for part of the payment, Oliver said. However, the check bounced, and the city resorted to a third-party bill collector to get the money.

Current Productions paid the balance in full at the end of January, Oliver said. The payment came a few months after the organizers of Welcome to Rockville reserved the park on the same weekend Hill wanted to have the event in order to prepare for the two-day hard rock festival the following weekend. …

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