How would Duane Hagadone feel about having thousands of hydroplane-racing spectators tramping over his lakeside golf course?
If economic development is the goal of holding races on Lake Coeur d’Alene on Labor Day weekend, why not take the $500,000 required for the races and give it to an economic development agency such as Jobs Plus?
And if the goal is national exposure, why not use the cash to buy advertising targeted at the type of people Coeur d’Alene would like to attract?
These and other pointed questions were raised at a Wednesday news conference headed by a quintet of people opposed to returning Coeur d’Alene to the hydro circuit.
Racing proponents respond by saying their primary goal is providing local residents with good family entertainment and that national advertising and economic development are secondary.
Moving the boat races to Silver Beach, and Hagadone’s golf course, isn’t feasible because of parking and emergency vehicle access, they add.
The Coeur d’Alene City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed races Jan. 29.
About three dozen opponents used the old Harding School to launch Wednesday’s salvos - in stark contrast to the fancier digs at The Coeur d’Alene Resort that the pro-racing Diamond Cup Association has been using for its rallies.
Despite the far-ranging questions, it was clear the top concern in anti-hydroplane quarters is that City Beach, City Park and Tubbs Hill would be fenced off for paying spectators.
The damage to the fragile soils of the 137-acre Tubbs Hill area would be immense, insisted Bob Eagan, president of Tubbs Hill Inc. His private non-profit group still is trying to mitigate damage done to the area during the hydroplane races of the 1960s, he said.
In addition, making a grandstand out of the city’s most valuable natural resource would directly contradict Coeur d’Alene’s management plan for keeping Tubbs Hill as untouched as possible, Eagan said. Moving the spectator area to Silver Beach wouldn’t alleviate his concerns because some spectators still would gravitate to Tubbs Hill.
Scott Reed, an attorney speaking for the recently formed Protect Our Lake Association, questioned how racing advocate and resort owner Duane Hagadone would feel about having the crowds milling around on his golf course.
Hagadone, a strong force behind the races, did not respond to a telephone message.
The primary unanswered question is how many people actually would come to the races, Reed said. Racing promoters estimate 25,000, but news accounts from the 1960s put the number at 130,000, he said.
The anti-racing forces said they would abide by the results of a public vote on the matter. They note, however, that people voted overwhelmingly against the races in 1985 and “the only person who didn’t understand that vote is Pat McGaughey,” Reed said.
McGaughey, president of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the City Council, not citizens, should make the decision on the races.
Steve McCrea, a former City Council member, said he’s concerned the races would mean Coeur d’Alene residents are prevented from using city beaches on the last weekend of summer. And putting $500,000 toward the races instead of more substantial economic development, he added, “is kind of like throwing away your kids’ education for a party.”
Racing opponents question how the lake would be affected by boaters who are on the lake all day watching the races. They also fear the races would lead to additional growth and construction of motels that require still more special events in order to stay in business.
The Diamond Cup Association said it views this as a local event that wouldn’t generate much of the feared trouble.
“We are simply trying to put on a well-run hydroplane event that will benefit our local folks,” said Kent Wick, association co-chairman.
Two-thirds of the spectators would come from within 100 miles, so there wouldn’t be huge demand for new motels, he said. While racing promoters wouldn’t have direct control over pollution from spectator boats, he expects it would be a small problem.