Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council Provides TLC to APBA Offshore Powerboat Races

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Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council (TDC) becomes the title sponsor of powerboat racing event in hopes of boosting tourism to Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island, on northwest Florida's Emerald Coast.

Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island, northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast, is preparing for the arrival of the APBA Offshore GMC Pro Grade Series powerboat racing tour this month. APBA Offshore's announcement that the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council (TDC) has stepped up to the dock as the Exclusive Title Sponsor was just the TLC they needed to confirm that the community is welcoming the 2004 event with open arms.

“I think it’s a win–win for everyone,” said Michelle May–Schmidt, communications director for the APBA Offshore Racing Association. She, along with Jim Poplin, president, and David Thompson, operations director, met before Okaloosa County TDC officials last week.

“APBA Offshore receives the ability to host our event and bring our racers and fans to an absolutely outstanding community. We have a great package to offer a city from our professional racers to our highly acclaimed safety rescue teams. We bring a first class event to the area backed by a 102-plus year-old American Power Boat Association sanctioned as the only American-based powerboat association to award the prestigious U.I.M. International World Championship Titles. That means we are THE major brand in this sport. We believe that the sponsorship from the TDC confirms that they want to make an investment in an organization that will give that investment back. We are extremely pleased to have their confidence and support.”

Schmidt adds that the APBA Offshore goal for the 2004 Emerald Coast Offshore Gran Prix Event is to bring additional tourism dollars to the area the third week in September, when the water is still warm and the weather is beautiful.

“I’ve been told that it’s a quick ride from any of the Metro markets in the Tri State Area, and I can easily say that after spending the last few days here, it is a great weekend location for anyone who has had a hard work week or wants some getaway time with the family. The people are genuine, and they are very excited that APBA Offshore is coming to town, so I’d have to say to everyone to make your reservations now. It’s going to be a jam-packed weekend, and it’s all in a place that already offers great accommodations and superb restaurants, many with an ocean breeze. They have fun parks, and all the boating, fishing and swimming that anyone could want. The white sandy beaches and emerald waters are a spectacular backdrop to the racing action we bring. I know that our racers and fans will be well taken care of, as will any visitor that heads to Emerald Coast.”

Darrel Jones, president and CEO of the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau Inc., hopes that racers and their families take advantage of everything the area has to offer as well. “We have 24 miles of beautiful beaches as well as dining, shopping, golf and nightlife for everyone to enjoy while they are here,” Jones states. “We are always looking for ways to increase the number of visitors during the fall season, and special events like the ABPA Offshore Gran Prix are a welcome addition to the activities that bring people to our area.”

Showcasing a fleet of the fastest offshore racing boats in the country, APBA Offshore race boats, trailers, coach liners, exotic cars, motorcycles and other display items will begin arriving on Thursday, September 16th, in preparation for the three day event which is the seventh of eight stops on the GMC Pro Grade Series National Tour. This is also the last of two racing competitions available for a two-Race qualifier for the organization's APBA U.I.M. World Championships in Key West in November.

On Friday, Race Village opens to the public at the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., where millions of dollars of high tech equipment will be on display. Admissions are a donation of $3 per day or $5 for the three-day weekend. Kids 12 and under are free. Military Personnel in uniform or with a military ID will be allowed free admission all weekend long and fans are encouraged to take photos, get autographs and view all of the team items, event souvenirs and vendor booth products on display and available for purchase. Viewing of water-based activities and racing competition is free.

On Friday, testing will begin, with race boats hitting the Gulf of Mexico from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. in preparation for the competition itself. Fans can expect to see speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour from the APBA Offshore Super Series™ Catamarans and Vee’s, while some of the larger, faster entries, such as the Performance Extreme Cats PX-1 Bacardi Silver, PX-17 Callan Marine and the PX-77 Pair–A-Dice Racing Teams carry bragging rights from 170 to over 200 miles per hour in previously held speed record runs.

A total of 15 classes of competition with boats ranging from 24’ to 46’ are expected to compete in the Super Series™, Factory Series™ and Outlaw Performance™ fleets. An Official Play–by–Play Beach Broadcast will be held at the APBA Offshore Official Host Hotel, the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, on Saturday, while the Sunday broadcast will be positioned at the Boardwalk near the Pier.

Start to finish line for the competition days will be across from the Ramada, and APBA Offshore is currently seeking volunteers that wish to assist the event by utilizing their boat for on-course support, safety and medical personnel. Race Village positions are being accepted as well, and all volunteers receive an event T-Shirt and entrance to all parties for the weekend.

“APBA Offshore is here to make a home, and we plan to come back each year with an even more exciting event,” confirmed Poplin, who added that Thompson has already made the Emerald Coast area his home from now through race weekend at the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, where he is working on the operational aspects of the event.

David Thompson will hold a Thursday night volunteer meeting followed by a Race Kick Off party and Thanks In Advance volunteer celebration, also open to the public. Race, fan and sponsor parties will be held each night. Party location sponsors are now being accepted for consideration. “Locations of our parties, all aspects of the event and updates as they occur will continue to be posted on our website at http://www.apbaoffshoreracing.com,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt also added that the APBA Offshore Racing website hosts all volunteer applications, information on each team, event information, race and points chase results and special interest stories on the organization and sport including a fans guide to watching an APBA Offshore Event. A free e-mail Fan Club is also available for the public and located on the home page to receive weekly updates on all APBA Offshore Racing News including the 2004 Emerald Coast Offshore Gran Prix.

The 2004 APBA Offshore GMC Pro Grade Series sponsor team includes GMC, Racing Communications, Bio-Kleen, Snap On, Freeze Frame Video Productions, duPont Registry, Innovation Marine, Velocity Powerboats, Formula, Extreme Marine of Tampa Bay and Competitive EDGE Marine. Okaloosa County and the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau Inc. present the 2004 Emerald Coast Offshore Gran Prix. The Ramada Plaza Beach Resort is the Official APBA Offshore host hotel and host of race competitor drivers meetings. Race Village is sponsored and located at The Boardwalk.

For all information on the 2004 APBA Offshore GMC Pro Grade Series stay tuned to http://www.apbaoffshoreracing.com
For information on the Emerald Coast and the amenities available, visit http://www.destin-fwb.com
For information on the Ramada Beach Plaza Beach Resort, visit http://www.ramadafwb.com

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Michelle May - Schmidt
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