While the future of the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., has yet to be decided pending a possible move up and across the state to Clearwater, the Florida Powerboat Club’s annual Key West Poker Run, which happens the same week as the offshore races, will continue—and will expand its scope of activities in the event of an SBI departure. That’s the word from Stu Jones, the owner and founder of the FPC.
“Key West has become—without question—one of our signature runs,” said Jones. “It’s certainly our biggest and most popular run. Some spectators may be lost if the Super Boats don’t come back, but we think if that happens it will present an opportunity for our club.
“All of this comes at an interesting time as we are re-evaluating our current poker run platforms,” Jones continued. “We will continue to come to Key West, regardless of what SBI does. If SBI does leave, it opens the possibility for us of an umbrella of events—a ‘powerboat week’ concept that emulates a ‘boating week’ combined with a regatta.”
Among the events Jones said he would consider incorporating into the 2014 Key Poker Run would be a top-speed Shootout in Key West Harbor modeled after those put on by the annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, the Texas Outlaw Challenge and the Desert Storm Poker Run.
“That would give poker runners, and maybe even a few offshore racers who don’t race anywhere regularly for whatever reason, a chance to see what their boats can do on a one-mile course in a controlled, spectator friendly setting with proper safety gear and safety teams. As a poker run organizer, I’d like to be able to offer that opportunity to our ‘speed junkie’ members who buy their boats to go fast, but can’t go as fast as they want to during our runs because of our rules.”
According to Jones, the Key West Poker Run has averaged 150 boats—with an average of five passengers per boat—for the past ten years. An article in yesterday’s Key West Citizen cited records from the Monroe County Tourism Development Council (Key West is in Monroe County) that estimated hotel revenue for the week of the SBI Worlds and FPC Key West Poker Run at $7.2 million. However, total revenue estimates for the week from a variety of sources range between $20 million and $30 million.
“I would say that that the people in the poker run and all the people who come down for it—including people associated with the boats as well as ‘social’ and ‘corporate’ members of the club who come down by car or plane—represent at least half of the revenue that week,” said Jones. “From the time we hit Gilbert’s (the first stop in the poker run), which is in Monroe County, our club members are spending money. And when they get to Key West, they’re spending on hotel rooms, boutiques, restaurants, bars, scooter rentals and on and on.”
In addition to a Shootout, Jones said he would consider adding a number of others events, from on-water, choreographed go-fast boat demonstrations and manufacturer “showcases” to offshore races from other organizations, such as P1 Superstock U.S.A., if SBI moves its World Championships from Key West.
“I don’t want to be a race organizer, but I don’t mind being a race promoter,” he said. “I think that Key West Harbor would lend itself well to that kind of show.”