July 21, 2012 in City

Coeur d’Alene delays hydro races until 2013

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Six weeks after announcing hydroplane racing would return to Lake Coeur d’Alene this summer, organizers said Friday they need more time to line up sponsors for the Diamond Cup and have postponed it a year.

The Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup hydroplane event planned for Labor Day weekend will be pushed back to the same weekend in 2013, said Doug Miller, Diamond Cup president. That gives organizers enough time to sign new sponsors and ensure logistics run smoothly, Miller said.

Organizers haven’t named any sponsors so far or revealed how much money they have raised or hope to raise to stage the races. But in a prepared statement, Miller solicited more support for the event.

“We are inviting local and regional brands to join us at the $25,000 sponsorship level,” he said. “This is an opportunity to be affiliated with what will inevitably become one of the highest profile events in the Northwest.”

Hydroplane races were held on Lake Coeur d’Alene from 1958 to 1968, drawing crowds of thousands. The original three-mile Diamond Cup course took racers past spectators gathered downtown along City Beach and Independence Point and perched on Tubbs Hill.

Underage drinking, fights, rioting and arrests marred the races from 1961 to 1964. But ultimately, waning enthusiasm and financial losses ended the run.

Previous attempts to bring the races back were knocked down by city voters in 1985 and 1996. But a buzz has been building in recent years about reviving hydro races on the lake, and Diamond Cup organizers announced June 8 that the 44-year absence would end on Labor Day weekend.

“We will become the No. 1 race in the United States,” pronounced Dennis Wheeler, former president and CEO of Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp.

The venue, however, will move away from downtown and just outside city limits. The new two-mile course for the boats, which reach speeds of 200 mph, will extend south from the Silver Beach area.

Spectators will be able to watch from their boats on the lake and from bleachers on shore along Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive and the Centennial Trail, organizers said.

This summer’s event was to have featured sanctioned Grand Prix West competitions, with an H1 Unlimited-class exhibition race. That was to be followed in 2013 with a sanctioned H1 Unlimited race.

Postponing everything a year has several advantages, Miller said Friday. The H1 Unlimited hydroplanes will compete in an actual race, not just an exhibition, for the debut.

Organizers also have more time to concentrate on ticket sales, staging areas, crowd control, security, course layout and race team coordination – and to find more sponsors.

“These events rely on key sponsors, which use the races not only for high-profile advertising, but also as VIP events for their top clients,” Miller said.

He said he would be happy to sit down with anyone considering a sponsorship to discuss the financial structure of the race.

Miller and Wheeler said the races in the long term will bring millions of dollars to the Coeur d’Alene area, similar to the economic impact of the Lamb-Weston Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities, which will host its races next weekend.

“We’re pleased that Coeur d’Alene is moving to an official H1 tour race for 2013,” said Sam Cole, president of H1 Unlimited. “I can tell you that Coeur d’Alene’s H1 designed course is an outstanding racing venue. We look forward to supporting this event.”

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