Big, flat boats propped up on trailers are appearing all over Coeur d’Alene – a sure sign something big is about to begin.
The Miss Everett, which competes in the Grand Prix West circuit, was parked Wednesday outside its local sponsor, Porky G’s Authentic Southern Style Barbecue on Northwest Boulevard.
Boat owner Tom Eckenberg, of Everett, pulled in Tuesday night. He said he’s enthusiastic about the rebirth of the Diamond Cup races in Lake Coeur d’Alene after an absence that spanned four and a half decades.
“We hope it works. We like it here,” Eckenberg said.
The grand prix heats will be Saturday and Sunday in between the H-1 unlimited heats. On Friday, race teams will take to the water for practice and qualifying runs. Admission is free that day.
Unlike the turbine-powered unlimited-class boats that tend to hog the spotlight, the automotive-powered grand prix hydroplanes top out around 165 mph and are closer to the definition of deafening.
“You can tell us by the noise,” Eckenberg said. “They’re loud.”
That’s what appeals to Gary Stinnett, the owner of Porky G’s. “The thing I like about these is these are like the old thunderboats,” Stinnett said. “These are loud.”
He hopes to do brisk business with rib specials the next few days, then plans to enjoy the final day of racing Sunday on his pontoon boat, rooting for the Miss Everett.
Out near the race course at Silver Beach, Chuck McClain, of Coeur d’Alene, paused Wednesday on his daily Centennial Trail trek to take in the changing scenery as final preparations were made for the three-day event.
“I think it’s awesome,” McClain said. “It will bring a lot of revenue to Coeur d’Alene, that’s for sure.”
He has attended auto racing but never a hydroplane race. “If this (trail) will be open, I’ll be down here,” he said. “I mean, I still want to do my workout.”
The Centennial Trail as well as East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive will remain open through the holiday weekend, but the Diamond Cup and the thousands of fans expected to turn out will create significant congestion.
The popular trail will be detoured away from the lake and behind bleachers and vendors that are going up along a stretch of the shoreline.
Starting today, Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive, a state highway, will be reduced to one lane from Potlatch Hill Road to just west of Sunnyside Road – a distance of about 2 miles. Flaggers will be posted at both ends as traffic takes turns passing by the course site.
No public parking will be available in the race area. Spectators are encouraged to use free shuttle buses from the Kootenai County Fairgrounds (where parking will cost $10 per day) or downtown shuttle services. Vehicles blocking emergency access or on private property will be towed, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.
Fans may ride bicycles to the races and park them in a secure corral on the north end of the Silver Beach Marina parking lot for a nominal daily fee.
Residents and others who need access east of the race venue are encouraged to use an alternate route, such as Interstate 90 to Mullan Trail to Sunnyside Road, the sheriff’s office said.
Officials also cautioned boaters to look out for course buoys and log booms in the water near Silver Beach.