COOS BAY — A bigger Tall Ship event may be on the horizon for Coos Bay.
Draw Events LLC President Craig Samborski spoke to community businessmen and representatives of local attractions Thursday morning about the benefits of having Coos Bay participate as a port for the 2017 Festival of Sail — Tacoma.
Having hosted a number of Tall Ships events nationally since 2010, including staging the largest event ever at the Port of Los Angeles, Samborski said each has drawn a huge contingent of tourists and injected cash into the local economy.
With about 929,000 visitors of the Draw Events festivals since 2010, the events have generated $54.7 million in economic impact, including $15 million for the first year in Duluth and $14.7 million in Ottawa.
The city of Tacoma's last foray into Tall Ships festivals, however, did not have the same success.
Under a different promoter, Samborski learned in meeting with Tacoma officials that the 2008 festival accumulated about $500,000 in debt, all of which now has been paid or written off.
"2008 was not a good year," Samborski said. "The way it was explained to me was the guy in charge of the checkbook left a week before the event."
But while the event the past event suffered from unfortunate circumstances, Samborksi was confident a future event could be successful with the right planning.
In addition to spurring on tourism, these events have shown the ability to draw from all over the country and help improve awareness about the area.
"We certainly market the event locally, but we really market it nationally," Samborski said. "Last year in Los Angeles, we sold tickets in 27 states. Duluth, where I live, we sold tickets in 50 states. We've sold tickets for Tall Ships Philadelphia in 38 states."
While Coos Bay differs dramatically from the major metropolitan areas in which some of the events were held, Samborski drew some comparisons to Duluth and how it helped spur local business.
"Duluth is bigger than Coos Bay but not a lot bigger," Samborski said. "We don't have Chili's and TGI Friday's and lots of businesses there. There are a lot of small businesses, but that community came together to convert it for that weekend into a destination."
Coos Bay City Manager Rodger Craddock said he could envision a number of ways the community could become more invested and tied into the event to make it better.
"I could see a maritime exhibit over at the art museum during the time of this event, showcasing our boat building history at the maritime museum, a theater event over at Little Theater on the Bay, the Boat Building Center and that would get people out into the community," Craddock said. "What we really want to do is attract people here with the goal of not only getting their money while they're here, but getting them back again."
Besides the added attraction from more boats, Samborski is also the owner of the world's largest rubber duck, which stands just over six stories tall and has its own drawing powers.
"It's part of the package if you want it, but I haven't come to a community that hasn't," Samborski said. "It brings a lot of people from all over the world. In Los Angeles, we had about 500 teenagers from Japan stand in front of it with a GoPro and selfie stick all weekend long."
As for details about the future event, many of those are still up in the air with Samborski meeting with officials in Tacoma on Friday.
Craddock said the city's next step is to form a steering committee to figure out how it wants to financially organize such an event.
What is known is that it will be made affordable to all families who want to attend. Ticket prices range from $7 to $85 for its upcoming event in Philadelphia.
"It is affordable to anyone regardless of their socioeconomic status," Samborski said. "If you want to get into this event, I want to get into this event."
Samborski said setting a date will take collaboration with other ports such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tacoma and Richmond, British Columbia, which is expected to participate in 2017.
With the summer months seeing a lot more local events, Samborski was quick to take a more neighborly approach with them, factoring in time and distance so as to not take away business.
"You start cannibalizing events," Samborski said. "The music festival you have in July you need to stay away from. I don't want to come in and hurt anyone's business. This is your community and I want to help you make it successful."