Trying to score a $5-million prize for Long Island—and perhaps show that he can think outside the box—Adam Haber, who’s running in the Democratic primary for Nassau County executive against former incumbent Tom Suozzi, is proposing that Nassau and Suffolk join together to host a 10-day “Summer Festival.”
The fest would feature athletic competitions in cycling, golfing, beach volleyball and cricket as well as specialty food, entertainment and tours of the North Fork wineries and the North Shore Gold Coast mansions. Haber, the retired Wall Street trader, restaurant owner and Roslyn School Board member, hopes that his proposal—whose details still need to be ironed out—could help LI walk away with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top prize for the best idea in a regional tourism competition.
“I believe Nassau and Suffolk are perfectly situated to work together to win this prize money,” said Haber, who hopes to win the Democratic Party line to challenge Republican County Executive Ed Mangano in November. “We’ve got natural resources that are underutilized. That’s how I look at it.”
Haber’s idea is to host this event around the July Fourth weekend, “which is a good travel weekend,” he noted, and involve venues across the Island. He’d schedule it when basketball and hockey seasons are over and football has yet to begin so the sporting contests would get a good shot at being broadcast live. He says that sponsorships, entry fees and television rights would help offset the costs of running the events and provide cash prizes for the winners.
As Haber sees it, the festival would draw “top amateur talent” from across the nation to participate in events ranging from a lacrosse tournament with finals at Mitchell Field, a three-stage bicycle race, a bi-county marathon, a fast-pitch softball series, and an Iron Man Triathlon, to an amateur golf tournament capped by a championship round at Beth Page Black.
“I want to create a tournament where we give a million-dollar prize in several different sports,” he told the Press, citing the loss of the Islanders hockey team as creating a vacuum that this sports festival could fill, thereby creating a new identity for our region. The earliest he could see it happening would be 2015.
For a precedent, he pointed out that the Oyster Festival in Oyster Bay started about 20 years ago with 20,000 people attending and grew into a three-day event drawing more than 100,000 people, becoming one of LI’s largest annual events. Tourists, Haber pointed out, spend money, which translates into sales taxes that can pour directly into the counties’ coffers.
Currently, the task of promoting our region’s assets is the primary responsibility of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission, which reportedly received about $764,000 from Nassau and $1.9 million from Suffolk in its 2013 budget and spent some $1,700,000 on marketing and sales.
According to Smith Travel Research, the Island gained $4.8 billion in travel spending in 2011, the most recent figures available from the bureau, although anecdotal reports suggest LI tourism is down slightly this summer after Sandy.
Haber declined to criticize the bureau’s activities, but he did tell the Press that he thinks “it’s really not reaching its full potential.” He would like to see a fully integrated, Island-wide focus and believes that a 10-day event in July could put the Island on the map.
“This sports festival, if done properly, would be a phenomenal way to get this region moving again,” he said.