A group resurrecting hydroplane racing on Lake Coeur d’Alene has cleared a tall hurdle to staging the event at the end of summer.
CdA Diamond Cup LLC said Thursday it has raised enough money from sponsors, donations and the backing of a Spokane bank to ensure the races happen over Labor Day weekend.
“This is a very, very happy day for us in Coeur d’Alene,” Diamond Cup President Doug Miller told supporters and reporters gathered at Riverstone Park.
John Stone, the developer of Riverstone and a member of the Diamond Cup board of directors, said the event is expected to bring about 70,000 people to Coeur d’Alene.
“This will be a major event for the region,” Stone said. “It’s time to start the engines. Let’s go.”
Hydro races last were held on the lake 45 years ago, and several efforts to revive them have fizzled, including an attempt by the Diamond Cup organization last year.
Now the group has the financial support it needs, Miller said, and Thursday he handed a check for an undisclosed sum to an official with the H1 Unlimited Series, which sanctions hydroplane racing.
“A lot of our drivers weren’t even born the last time we raced here in Coeur’Alene, but they all know Coeur d’Alene, Idaho,” said Ted Grange, operations and new site development director for H1 Unlimited. “As an organization H1 can’t be happier we’re finally back here in Coeur d’Alene.”
Miller wouldn’t disclose how much money has been lined up so far, but he did say the event 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 that we can really focus on putting on this race and really not have to look behind us anymore,” he said.
Fans so far have purchased about 650 ticket packages, averaging eight to 10 tickets each, Miller said. The Diamond Cup can sell up to 99,000 tickets, he added.
Last held here in 1968, 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.
He singled out Keith Kroetch of Kroetch Land and Timber for agreeing to 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.
He also mentioned sponsors such as Centennial Distributing/Budweiser, NAPA Auto Parts, Frontier Communications and North Idaho Maritime. Spokane-based Inland Northwest Bank also is helping finance the event, Miller said.
Back in the 1950s and ’60s the boats raced near City Beach and Tubbs Hill. The races now will be outside city limits along Silver Beach, east of the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course.
Resort co-founder Duane Hagadone was among those who advocated for a return of the hydro races in the mid-1990s. But Coeur d’Alene voters in 1996 passed an initiative banning hydro races in city limits. Some opponents recalled unruly crowds and underage drinking at the races from more than 30 years earlier. But many were upset the new races would have limited their access to the beach and Tubbs Hill areas during one of the last weekends of summer.
The Hagadone Hospitality Company remains supportive of the races, said Jerry Jaeger, president and co-owner.
“I think they’re a very positive thing for Coeur d’Alene, and as a company we’re excited and personally I’m excited about it,” Jaeger said. “This is great news.”
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 Silver Beach area. 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.
In addition, two classes of open-cockpit boats – Vintage Unlimited and Vintage Limited – will appear for exhibition races. Those are the type that raced on Lake Coeur d’Alene until waning enthusiasm and financial losses ended the run in 1968.
This year there will be no alcohol sold in spectator areas, organizers said.