- February 4, 2016
A Sarasota motorcycle rally could make a move out of the city next year — to the east or southern parts of the county, if not beyond — as event organizers work to finalize plans for the 19th annual Thunder by the Bay festival.
As of now, only the Jan. 5-8 dates for the event are publicly confirmed. After complaints from downtown merchants and residents, the festival is relocating from its traditional home in the heart of the city.
Lucy Nicandri, the executive director of event organizer Suncoast Charities for Children, said Thunder by the Bay could still maintain some presence within the city of Sarasota itself. City staff has approved the use of Payne Park, just southeast of Main Street, for the event.
However, it’s also possible the event will expand its presence outside of city limits. The Suncoast Charities board of directors is scheduled to meet Sept. 19 to finalize venue plans for Thunder by the Bay, and Nicandri said several options are still under consideration.
One choice under consideration is Lakewood Ranch,but Nicandri said organizers are exploring interest in all directions.
“Lakewood Ranch and Manatee County are viable options,” Nicandri said. “Going in the south county area is a viable option. Even going toward Arcadia is a viable option.”
A report following the 2016 Thunder by the Bay festival said the event drew about 90,000 attendees and had an estimated economic impact of nearly $9 million in Sarasota County. Still, a survey of downtown merchants impacted by street closures showed nearly 62% felt the event did not benefit their business.
Despite the forced relocation, Nicandri said a new venue would present an opportunity to reinvigorate the festival.
“We’re going to try to change the event up, too,” Nicandri said. “You have to after 18 years.”