Tourist Development Council Approves Grant Requests

After a 21-minute delay waiting to get a quorum, the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council quickly got down to business on several sports tourism grant requests.

TDC members reviewed six requests totaling $72,500 for a series of events running through June, with all but one approved unanimously.

TDC member Troy Blevins raised some concerns about possible damage to sports fields from the Florida Invitational Rugby Showcase scheduled for May 20-21.

County staff said this will be the third year the event has been held in St. Johns County and there have not been any issues with the fields.

Showcase organizers’ request for $15,000 was approved, with Blevins voting no.

The other grants approved were $20,000 for the Old School Kingfish Shootout; $7,500 for the N. Florida Kick-Off Classic; $10,000 for the N. Florida Super Regional NIT; $10,000 for the Battle at the Beach; and $10,000 for the Sunshine State Championships in June.

The TDC board also reviewed the monthly tourism reports presented by Susan Phillips, president and CEO of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau and the news was good.

“Traditional lodging is off the charts in all the metrics,” Phillips said. “We are seeing the meetings and conference side coming back.”

Phillips said the organization is set to unveil a new advertising campaign centered on the theme “It’s About Time” to be used in a variety of platforms, including print, television and digital sites.

“This is about heartstrings; this is about emotion,” Phillips said, describing the campaign. “I hope it is going to be something you are going to be proud of.”

Phillips also told TDC members about two tourism advisory workshops held in February, one each in Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine.

“We got a lot of input,” she said. “People had different things they are interested in.”

One area that received a lot of attention at both meetings was using the area’s waterways to promote tourism.

“They were very vocal that we needed to use these opportunities,” Phillips said. “It was a great way for folks to feel they were listened to and share their thoughts.”

Near the end of the meeting, Phillips presented a video of the Feb. 15 “Today Show” broadcast that featured St. Augustine as part of the program’s winter getaway series.

The broadcast featured St. Augustine Mayor and TDC member Nancy Sikes-Kline who said the opportunity came up on short notice.

“It worked out really well,” she said. “Thank goodness we had good weather. We were able to showcase that.”

The next Tourist Development Council meeting is scheduled for June 19.