City makes first hurdle — more to follow

300-GLEN-HASTINGS-BOCCTourist Development Council Executive Director Glenn Hastings reported to Historic City News today the outcome of yesterday afternoon’s application for reserve funding to backstop the satellite event parking plan being proposed by the City of St Augustine for the two-day Mumford and Sons Gentlemen of the Road stopover September 13 and 14, 2013.

Ryan Murphy, General Manager of the St Johns County Cultural Events Division and General Manager of the St Augustine Amphitheatre and Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, pitched the $129,485 request to the Council yesterday; including a overview of the event that has already sold-out to a crowd of 25,000 ticket holders.

The city has limited revenue from the event — only $1.00 per ticket; however, they will earn $300-per-day rent on Francis Field and the adjoining “event footprint”, and, of course, the event parking.

According to City Comptroller Mark Litzinger, the plan he envisions, which is the one presented to the TDC yesterday, involves a special event mass transit system, of sorts, that will activate several designated parking areas served by regularly circulating passenger buses. Attendees will secure their vehicles at one of the lots, purchase a wristband for about $15.00, and be able to ride the bus into town or out of town, as they desire during the two days of the concert.

The system being developed, if successful, will serve as a model for all major events moving forward. That caught the TDC member’s attention — the actual financial plan submitted to support the funding request, not so much.

The City expects to hire parking, shuttling and event support at a cost $361,438, with anticipated revenue of $231,953 from the sale of wristbands. The grant is sought to finance the $129,485 shortfall. Some on the Council have questioned how the City could ever recover the costs of a sold-out event of this size and exactly what is being acquired with the money that will survive the event.

“I’d like to know what it is that we won’t have to buy the next time an event of this size comes to town that we are being asked to buy now,” one Council member asked Historic City News. “This is not a request for a matching grant, they are asking for a third, they may not need that much.”

The Council voted to approve the request — UP TO the requested amount; however, the City will be required to produce a more definitive plan for the use of the money. Hastings said that he didn’t anticipate any problem for the City to meet those requirements, although he did say that this request is on somewhat short notice, since the proposal will require final approval by the Board of County Commissioners.

It is estimated that the concert event will have a positive economic impact of $2,500,000 to 3,000,000 in St Augustine and St Johns County.

Depending on the amount of the grant and the final definition of its use, it is possible that part of the grant will be withheld from the final award. An after-event report will be evaluated to determine how much of the funding was actually used and for what purpose. “They’ll have to show us the receipts for everything,” Hastings said.

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