- July 11, 2017
Suncoast Charities for Children will make every effort to keep its annual Thunder by the Bay motorcycle fundraiser in downtown Sarasota.
Downtown Economic Development Coordinator Norm Gollub last week released results of a post-event survey that indicate 89 of 104 stores in the downtown area had a negative response to the event, which includes street closures. But Suncoast Charities says the destination event brings in an $8 million economic impact and 8,800 hotel room stays.
The event’s future in downtown surfaced during the Sarasota City Commission meeting Monday. City officials said they will not issue any downtown event permits until they have finished studying how the event went.
“Right now, we’re trying to work it out with the city,” Suncoast’s executive director, Lucy Nicandri, said. “Our first choice is to keep it in the downtown sarasota area.”
Some downtown residents and merchants have expressed concerns about noise, vendor set up, street closures and loss of business during the three-day event.
Nicandri said the city has suggested restricting vendor set up to exclude Friday, among other changes.
“We’re not sure if that is going to work for us,” she said. "It really comes down to the city making a decision and the charity producing the festival looking at what restrictions the city may place on us. We’re really exploring options at this point.”
The charity is providing input to the city but will wait and see what it decides decides. Nicandri hopes a decision will be made by the end of the month. She also said Suncoast Charities has not yet considered other options, besides downtown, and will do so only after all opportunities for keeping the event there have been exhausted.
Thunder By the Bay raises about $150,000 annually, about one-third of the charity’s annual budget.
“We need to look at the viability if a move is made,” she said. “Can we continue the festival at a level we’ve maintained it?”
Schroeder-Manatee Ranch President and CEO Rex Jensens said he would be open to discussing moving the event to Lakewood Ranch, but no one from the charity has approached him with the idea yet.
The next Thunder by the Bay event is set for Jan. 5 through Jan. 8, 2017.
Suncoast Charities is a nonprofit that supports the Suncoast Foundation for Handicapped Children, which has facilities to serve about 8,000 handicapped children and adults and their families.