The Southeast US Boat Show
Has been cancelled.
Southeast US Boat Show canceled after organizers fail to reserve Metropolitan Park
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.
The city informed Current Productions in November that the weekend was booked and spoke to the company about alternative dates after they paid their balance, Oliver said. However, she said Current Productions insisted on that weekend, so the city began facilitating discussions between them and the Rockville organizers.
She said the city learned Friday that those discussions fell through.
“Because we’ve had a long-standing relationship, we wanted to accommodate the needs of both parties. It was an extra effort for us,” Oliver said. “We’ve exhausted that extra effort.”
Hill’s telling of the story is a bit different.
He said the city sent him an invoice for the previous event last June. Around that time, Hill had just wrecked a racing boat. Hill said the accident put considerable financial pressure on his company, and he asked the city if he could pay off his debt in several payments. He said it refused. He said the Rockville promoters booked the park during the “few months” it took him to pay the bill, although the city never told him they were in jeopardy of losing the event’s prospective dates.
“We never would have left our dates vulnerable, although I would also never had expected the city to do this to us, no matter what. I would have expected our partnership after 20 years to earn us a phone call,” Hill said.
He said the talks with the Rockville promoters fell through because their requested concessions were “ridiculous.”
Hill said there’s a “tiny chance” the event could be saved if someone at City Hall intervened.
“If somebody in the city would make a decision tonight to look at the issue, put the other party at the table and make them understand that we’ve agreed to do everything they say,” Hill said. “We can make the adjustments on the ground, but it has to happen immediately.”