Race World Offshore was awarded a five-year contract to produce the Offshore Powerboat Racing World Championship in Key West, Florida, starting this November.
The Key West City Commissioners voted Tuesday night to go with Race World Offshore despite objections from Super Boat International, which produced the championship race in recent years. RWO won out after a lengthy request for proposal process that saw three groups submit bids for the race November 3-10.
“I’m ecstatic about it,” said Larry Bliel, president of the Race World Offshore, in an interview with Poker Runs America. “This event is iconic, it’s the worlds. It needs the glamor, it needs the pomp and circumstance of everything that it’s not had in powerboat racing.”
Bliel said the race is open to all offshore organizations worldwide and RWO successfully lobbied to be recognized as an APBA sanctioning body.
“I have no ulterior motive than to put on the best races with the best teams and people. Come and enjoy and have a good time but let’s make it professional,” Bliel said.
With less than six months before the World Championships, Bliel and his group has plenty of work ahead and they have several additions to jumpstart this year’s races.
RWO is going to make the Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater a major focus of the event, holding the opening and closing ceremonies on the stage. They plan a “major” concert on Thursday night with a Sunday night concert after the races and awards ceremony.
“I was down there Saturday last year and the pits and the grounds were a ghost town,” he said. “We want to bring people down there to walk around and have an atmosphere that’s not dormant.”
Bliel said they plan to do podium ceremonies right after the races on Wednesday and Friday to create more excitement for the fans and racers.
To energize the Sunday parade that kicks off the championship week, Bliel wants to include more boats (old race boats), bring in marching bands and get city leaders to be part of the parade. Just as important, slow down the parade.
“We want to have more people involved,” he said. “Last year it was like a drag race it, it seemed like they were led down the street and I couldn’t even read the names on the boat it was so quick.”
Racing will remain on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday because of the cruise ship schedule and that won’t change for the foreseeable future, Bliel said.
“SBI laid out a template and it’s a very good template but that template has to be modified now and in order to make it financially viable we have to bring more boats,” Bliel said.
RWO will do a profit-sharing agreement with the city of Key West for each ticket and VIP ticket that is sold. “We’ve got a beautiful park down there that has cost taxpayers millions and millions of dollars,” he said. “It should have revenue back to it.”