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Hydroplane Proponent Pleads His Case Wary Residents Want A Vote

If the public doesn’t want hydroplanes on Lake Coeur d’Alene, no turbine-powered boats will roar here, race organizers say.

The Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup Association presented its case to nearly 250 people Tuesday night.

“If it’s going to be an impossibility, we don’t want to go on,” said John McGruder, co-chairman of the association, as he tried to persuade hydroplane foes at The Coeur d’Alene Resort. “I know a third are for it, a third are against it, and we’re trying hard to persuade the rest.”

Wary residents wanted to know whether they’ll get a chance to vote on whether the jet boats will be allowed to race. The City Council will meet Jan. 29 to decide whether to hold a vote or simply approve or deny the races.

But the first public unveiling of specifics of the proposed races and their effect on the area drew more supporters than naysayers.

The non-profit association and Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pat McGaughey revealed these details:

The association wants to spend half a million dollars to put on the races, none of it from taxpayers. Sales of buttons, admissions and corporate sponsorships should cover the costs of providing crowd control and other services.

About 25,000 people would be expected to show up, though McGaughey and the association couldn’t satisfy some in the audience who wondered what would happen if three times that number descended on the Lake City.

Organizers want to limit the number of spectators on Tubbs Hill to 7,000, ban alcohol and enlist volunteers to keep portable toilets serviced around the preferred race site of City Park on over to Tubbs Hill.

The Silver Beach area, an alternative site, would create too many emergency-service logistical problems, McGruder said. Its distance from downtown Coeur d’Alene works against it, he added.

Coeur d’Alene Resort owner Duane Hagadone, whose facility would be prominently featured in television coverage if the races were held off the city beach, supports the race effort.

The fragility of Tubbs Hill remained the top issue for race opponents.

Jeffrey Coulter of the Citizen Network for Responsible Growth worried that a herd of spectators would cause erosion, sending much of the hill’s soil tumbling into the lake.

“In the real estate business, it’s location, location and location,” he said. “But for Tubbs Hill, it’s erosion, erosion, erosion.”

The association plans to keep a close eye on the part of Tubbs Hill that offers the best vantage points for the races.

Supporters argued that the races would be no worse than the thousands of people who tromp the landmark during the Fourth of July fireworks show.

“You can talk numbers until you’re blue in the face, but one the hill gets damaged, it’s damaged,” Coulter said. “I’m not even an environmentalist. I’m just a guy who likes to be up on the hill.”

A 1986 advisory vote on hydroplane racing failed, though the chamber’s McGaughey felt poor wording doomed it.

Communities that put the races to a vote will lose the corporate sponsors essential to making the races a reality, said Grant Marks, a financial planner who has a radio show on KXLY in Spokane.

Race supporters testified that modern hydro races are wholesome, family events that could not contrast more with the riotous and rowdy races Coeur d’Alene experienced in the late 1960s.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition.

Cut in the Spokane edition.