The races are a go, say the architects of the return of hydroplane racing on Lake Coeur d’Alene this summer.
If there were lingering doubts the hydro races would come together, organizers sought to reassure fans and potential sponsors today that they have secured all the financing needed to guarantee the high-speed event happens over Labor Day weekend.
At an announcement this morning at Riverstone Park, Doug Miller, president of CdA Diamond Cup, LLC, handed a check for an undisclosed sum to an official with the H1 Unlimited Series, which sanctions hydro racing.
“This is a very happy day for us in Coeur d’Alene,” Miller said.
The races will feature two classes of closed-cockpit boats: H1 Unlimited, the world’s fastest at speeds of about 220 mph; and Grand Prix West.
Ten boats are committed and up to 12 may compete, Miller said.
The Diamond Cup has arranged sufficient sponsorships, private contributions and financing through Inland Northwest Bank to ensure the races go on, he said. Miller declined to disclose how much money it has lined up so far, but he did say the races will cost “in excess of a half a million dollars” to stage.
“We have the assurance and the funding to cover all our operational costs to take the pressure off of us from the ticket sales and the sponsorship efforts so we can really focus on putting on the race and really not have to look behind us anymore,” he said.
More than 650 spectator ticket packages have sold so far, and those average about eight to 10 tickets per package, Miller said. The Diamond Cup can sell up to 99,000 tickets, he added.
John Stone, the developer of Riverstone and a member of the Diamond Cup board, said the event is expected to bring about 70,000 people to Coeur d’Alene.
The group had hoped to bring the races back to the lake last year but postponed them when funding did not come together in time.
Miller, a racing fan who owns a commercial lighting company, named some of the event sponsors today. They include Centennial Distributing/Budweiser, NAPA Auto Parts, Frontier Communications and North Idaho Maritime.
He also singled out Keith Kroetch of Kroetch Land and Timber for helping underwrite operational costs. “We’re here today because Keith Kroetch has stepped up to make this happen so that we can go on and put on a world-class boat race here on Lake Coeur d’Alene this Labor Day,” Miller said.
The world’s fastest boats last raced near City Beach and Tubbs Hill in 1968. Previous attempts to bring them back met with public resistance, and in 1996 city voters approved an initiative banning hydro races within city limits.
Diamond Cup officials have obtained permits from Kootenai County and the state to stage the races outside the city, along Silver Beach east of the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course.
Spectators will be encouraged to park at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, where 6,000 spaces will be available, and ride shuttle buses to and from the shore. The Diamond Cup has made a $5,000 nonrefundable deposit to reserve the fairgrounds lots.
Bleachers, food and merchandise vendors and restrooms will be set up along a 2.2-mile stretch of Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive and the North Idaho Centennial Trail, and the race course will take racers within 400 feet of shore.
Spectators can check out the boats free of charge during testing and qualifying runs Aug. 30. Races are scheduled for Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Heats will be three laps and final races will be five laps. Each lap is two miles.
The Diamond Cup is the only seven-lane course on the H1 circuit, which includes races in Kennewick and Seattle.
In addition, two classes of open-cockpit boats – Vintage Unlimited and Vintage Limited – will appear for exhibitions. Those are the type that raced on Lake Coeur d’Alene between 1958 and 1968, but for safety reasons they no longer are used in racing.
The races drew large crowds in the 1950s and ’60s but were marred by underage drinking, fights, rioting and arrests from 1961-1964. Ultimately, waning enthusiasm and financial losses ended the run after the 1968 event.