City Manager Charles Theofan said the administration is currently in negotiations with Quiksilver to bring the Pro New York festival and surf competition back to Long Beach in 2012. Theofan would not disclose details of the talks but said the city is speaking to "multiple people at different levels" about the tournament's return.
Quiksilver Pro New York wrapped up its contest earlier this month with surfer Owen Wright defeating long-time veteran Kelly Slater to take home the $300,000 prize. The total event was cut in half, however, as the impact of Hurricane Irene forced city officials to cancel the festival portion of the tournament. Some Long Beach residents were critical of the city's decision to nix the festival, which included live bands, skateboarding, and motorcross displays.
Nonetheless, Theofan described the experience as a positive one and said he welcomes Quicksilver's return.
"The event was nothing short of fantastic, phenomenal, and we would love to have them back," Theofan said. "And we've already started discussions to bring them back."
Quiksilver has a three-year agreement with the Association of Surfing Professionals to hold Quiksilver Pro New York in the state for the next two years, but the agreement does not bind the company to hold it in Long Beach. That leaves the city in competition with other surf-friendly communities such as the Rockaways and Montauk. For its part, Quiksilver officials continue to praise the recent event and applaud the private-public partnership with the city.
"The event itself exceeded everyone's expectations," said Jodi Wilmott, the event's onsite media director. "The hospitality of the local community, the businesses...this was one of the most positive experiences we've had."
In an interview with a surfing trade publication, shop-eat-surf.com, Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight also praised Long Beach as a great location, but stopped short of committing to it for next year. "At this point we just don’t know," McKnight commented. "There are some insurance issues we have to get through, and the way the city cancelled some of the 'festival' events at the last minute – we have to see."
Theofan acknowledged that problems existed between the event organizers and the city, particularly in relation to the cancelled festival.
"There were issues," Theofan said. "We worked out those issues. Some of the planning went down the drain with the storm. There were meetings with the LIRR, Nassau County police, and Long Beach police...but at the end of the day we did get to where we both needed to be." Theofan added that had the festival taken place, Quiksilver would have been able to provide an economic impact statement to outline specific revenue figures for the community. Theofan remained confident, however, that the city benefitted financially.
"There's no question the Quiksilver attendees spent a considerable amount of money," said Theofan. "The surfers, their entourages, spent good amounts of money. Over Labor Day weekend you could not get another person into the restaurants, they were so packed."
Quiksilver would not disclose its financial numbers from the event, but McKnight told the press that its retail store did well, and was able to provide "locals only" discounts on merchandise, which was a hit with the community.
"We showed them what we can do for their town, their community, their international recognition, their local charities," McKnight stated. "We need some weeks to assess the media impact, the insurance issues, and what the city is willing to do for us if indeed we are invited back. We need to measure the success and value of everything."
Theofan said the city has learned from the issues that arose during the event, and would like the chance to play host again.
"It was one of the most exciting moments in sports that I've been able to see in person, and we just hope we get to repeat that," he said.