While a vocal majority are worried about the show's potential impact on the Key, a strong few have compelling arguments in favor of the show.
Siesta Key is getting its very own self-titled reality show, in the same vein as the early 2000s hits “Laguna Beach” or “The Hills,” but residents have been vocal about concerns over the show.
The critics have come out in force on social media. More than 100 people responded to the news on The Observer’s Facebook page, most of which were concerned with the amount and type of attention a show on a national network would bring to the island.
One commenter, Daniel Zuknick, 44, has lived in the area for more than 40 years. He works at a resort on the Key, and is concerned about both young partyers coming to the area after watching the show, and an influx of any visitors to the Key in general.
“I know what this town once had,” he said. “The quality of the environment on the island has completely changed, as far as the quality of people that are coming here.”
He added that while visitors keep food on his table, his concern about “the caliber of people” is the price residents pay for reality shows and a No. 1 ranked beach.
“It’s wonderful for tourism, but at what point does it become too much of a good thing?” Zuknick asked.
Meet the cast of 'Siesta Key'
On the opposite side of the divide is Jules Lewis Gibson, the 48-year-old president of Fuse Media who has lived in the area for six years. Considering Siesta’s popularity as a tourist destination, she doesn’t believe a reality show will draw an inordinate number of visitors.
“I think the secret is out.”
She thinks the show isn’t likely to generate as much buzz as some fear, but if it does, it will be positive.
“I’m all for bringing a kind of younger, fresher perspective to Sarasota in general,” she said, noting the show isn’t aimed at the area’s typical tourist market. “I think it can be nothing but good.”
That’s a view that Jeanne Corcoran, director of the Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office, shares. Corcoran and her office have been coordinating with the show off and on for several years, and now that it’s almost here, she said it has already been good for the area.
“They’ve spent many, many hundreds of thousands of dollars directly into the local economy,” she said.
Corcoran said the show filming in Siesta Key brought “high wage, high skill” jobs to the area and brought customers to hotels and merchants — not to mention all the free product placement the show is giving the Key.
“Any time the face of your community is seen in media that people watch, you’re getting exposure that generates curiosity, generates interest, and sometimes it just plants a subconscious idea in a viewer’s mind they may not even be aware of,” Corcoran said.
See the 'Siesta Key' teaser
Ultimately, Corcoran said the show will draw new visitors to the Key, which is exactly what some residents fear. But Visit Sarasota County President Virginia Haley said the hype around the show won’t necessarily translate to visitors, especially considering the younger audience the show is geared toward.
“We’re not an inexpensive destination, and that is oftentimes a challenge for a younger demographic,” she said. “Not all, but it is sometimes a challenge, particularly if you want to stay out on Siesta Key.
“From our end, we’ve always positioned Siesta as a great family destination and we’ll continue to do so.”
Cast members responding to the criticism from locals ultimately encouraged them to wait.
“Whenever you tell somebody you’re going to be part of a reality TV show, all they think is it’s going to be trash,” said cast member Brandon Gomes, 22. “But I just keep trying to tell them to wait until it airs. It’s going to be classy.”
Corcoran agreed, adding that crews had followed every rule and regulation and had a low impact on the environment in which they were filming. She had some advice for the show’s vocal dissenters:
“If they don’t like it, they don’t have to watch,” she said. “The audience is the end judge of everything that’s out there.”
Black Tie Reporter Niki Kottmann contributed to this story.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.