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Airport tenant makes proposal to bring RV rally back

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Published:   |   Updated: February 4, 2014 at 06:39 PM

BROOKSVILLE - County officials are hoping to woo the organizers of the annual RV rally back to Hernando County in 2016.

Bradley Dye, vice president of Corporate Jet Solutions at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, said he would make available to the rallygoers his 20,000-square-foot hangar and offer other amenities.

But not everyone believes Dye's idea will fly.

Aviation Authority member Gary Schraut said the proposal, while good-intentioned, doesn't address longstanding infrastructure concerns. And even Southeast Area Family Motor Coach Association President Jim Duncan doesn't think the county can find a long-term solution. But Duncan said he is willing to work with Hernando County on a plan.

Dye and county officials made an 11th hour offer last Friday to Duncan to save the annual RV rally for Hernando County.

Dye said the hangar, located next to Corporate Jet Solutions' administrative office, is big enough to house 2,000 people and accommodate vendors and entertainers during the annual four-day rally.

There is a 150-foot wide runway in the back of his property where RVers could park their rigs. Dye said he would provide shuttle service to and from that runway to the hangar area.

In addition, Dye said he would supply a deluxe generator for electricity to 600 spots on-site and run sewer lines to a supply tank so people could have fresh water.

RVers would be stepping on concrete wherever they walk instead of grass and the airport manager likes the idea because he will not have to take one of the existing runways out of commission for the annual event, Dye said.

Dye said he never got the chance to discuss terms with the FMCA because, three days before that meeting, the FMCA board of directors voted 46-0 to commit to an indoor arena in Sarasota for 2015.

Duncan said Tuesday that he will write up a list of everything the FMCA requires to put on a show and submit it to the county administrator but he doesn't believe Hernando County will be able to meet its needs in a year.

Duncan said he will not go anyplace where he has to deal with generators or tents. The Sarasota site, he said, has indoor bathrooms, electricity and the entire affair is inside.

Also, Duncan said he doesn't think Dye's hangar is big enough for the rally.

However, he is keeping an open mind and is willing to negotiate with Hernando County.

"We're going to look at it," Duncan said.

This year's rally drew 584 participants, down from 794 last year, Duncan said. That's a far cry from the roughly 13,000 people who attended the rally in its heyday.

Dye said he got involved when he read of the matter in the newspaper but by then, it was too late to save the rally for this year.

Dye just opened Corporate Jet Solutions in October and is new to the neighborhood but wants to help with the event which he called an economic boost for the area.

"We're the new kid on the block and we want to do what we can to help" he said.

Dye's proposal would provide the rally participants with an indoor venue and space to park their RVs. It would eliminate the need for expensive temporary tents, which had proven the biggest area of contention for the FMCA.

Dye attended last Friday's meeting with FMCA President Jim Duncan, County Administrator Len Sossamon, Tourism Coordinator Tammy Heon, Airport Manager Kevin Dougherty, Corporate Jet Solutions' spokesman Jimmy Lodato and his wife executive assistant Tammy Lodato.

"At the end of the day, it seems to me like everyone was working together for a common goal," Dye said. "If we keep that kind of unity up, we will be able to attract (the FMCA) for 2016. They made it very plain that they love Brooksville and Hernando County. They've made friends here. But they got to the point where it was a business decision for them."

Public Information Manager Virginia Singer said in a press release that Dye will also offer the RVers at-cost fuel for the event, should they consider re-opening negotiations with Hernando County.

Singer said the FMCA president would consider moving back if certain other amenities were met. Those include: 600 to 1,000 RV spaces with water and electric hookups, dump stations, two buildings for entertaining with seating for up to 2,000 people and improved access to the airport.

Duncan said the 46-0 vote to move the rally to Sarasota was made reluctantly because of increasing financial costs of the annual event.

For example, it cost the FMCA $70,000 just to erect tents during the four-day rally, which ended Sunday at one of the closed-off runways of the airport.

County officials asked Duncan to follow up with a written request as to the FMCA's requirements for the rally, according to Singer. County staff will review that request to determine costs.

"I don't know how much it will cost but I don't think it's going to be cheap," Sossamon said Tuesday.

Aviation Authority member Gary Schraut said he applauds Dye for trying to help but he doesn't believe the plan will work because it doesn't address concerns.

"We've been down this road before," Schraut said. "They want permanent infrastructure for water, electricity and sewage and they want a permanent building. "Those needs will not go away."

Duncan has also made it clear that he doesn't want any part of generators anymore, Schraut said.

Ultimately, Schraut said Hernando County will have to consider building a multi-purpose facility somewhere in the area that can be used for multiple events throughout the year - not just for RVers.

That will take a concerted effort from the private and public sector, Schraut said.

mbates@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5290

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