St. Petersburg show reports attendance boost

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With four consecutive days of sunny skies, the 34th annual St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show wrapped up Sunday with a 18 percent increase in overall attendance, according to Show Management chief financial officer Ricardo Strul.

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"I think it was a great show in terms of attendance," he told Soundings Trade Only this morning. "On Saturday we were really beating the numbers by double digits."

The show, which is held at the Progress Energy Center for the Arts, Mahaffey Theater Yacht Basin and Albert Whitted Park in St. Petersburg, consisted of boats both in the water and on the hard. The show got off to a healthy start Thursday with a 25 percent increase in new boats and exhibitor revenue up about 8 percent, said Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, chairman and chief executive of Active Interest Media, the parent company of Show Management, which produces the show. AIM also owns Soundings Trade Only.

"It's a real pleasant surprise, and we were selling some boats," Zimbalist said Saturday at the show. "We have some really amazing boats, both on the powerboat side and sailboat side, including a 45-foot Beneteau, which was introduced here to the West Coast of Florida. On the power side, we have a 50-foot Maritimo from Galati Yachts and a 60-foot Sea Ray that MarineMax brought."

The mood among exhibitors and show-goers was upbeat, Zimbalist said. "People have been depriving themselves," he said. "They want a new boat, and they've been holding off on buying." Now consumers are beginning to make commitments to buy, he said.

The number of exhibitors this year was up 7 percent, he said. Although the majority of exhibitors are based in Florida, other states represented include Alabama, Texas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana and New York, he said.

For Silver Bay, N.Y.-based Hacker-Craft, builder of retro mahogany runabouts, the St. Petersburg event was an opportunity to grow new markets, said Erin M. Badcock, Hacker Boat Co.’s director of operations. "We're finding some people who haven't seen these boats and some who actually didn't know they were still being built," said Badcock, whose company, Erin Investments, took full ownership of the builder in June. "There aren't a lot of Hackers in Florida, but we hope to change that."

Of course, the show featured plenty of Florida builders, including custom fishing/day cruising boats from Bonadeo Boatworks, of Stuart, Fla. The company's 368 Walk-Around attracted schools of show-goers. On Saturday, the boat was packed from bow to stern.

"In this size range and type of boat, there are not a lot of options for custom boats," company vice president of operations Tony Bonadeo said. This is the 7-year-old company's seventh boat, a high-end open boat with a berth and head below the console.

The number of new powerboats from 20 to 50 feet was up by about 20 percent, according to Strul. A Hatteras 68 convertible offered by the Tom George Yacht Group of Dunedin, Fla., was the largest boat at the show.

This marks the fourth year sailboats have been part of the St. Petersburg show. More than 25 sailboats from 33 to 50 feet were shown, Strul said. And more than 60 seminars were held during the show. Show-goers were able to navigate the show with Show Management's free MyBoatShow app for the iPhone/iPad and Android platforms.

— Chris Landry

This story was updated to delete a quote attributed to Ricardo Strul.

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