March 18, 2014 in City

Lake Coeur d’Alene hydroplane races returning for 2014

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Hydroplane racing will return to Lake Coeur d’Alene this summer, even as the sponsor works to pay off bills from last year’s resurrection of the Diamond Cup.

“We’re really no different than any other business that didn’t make money its first year,” Diamond Cup President Doug Miller said Monday.

He declined to disclose the organization’s debts but said all creditors will be paid by September. “We’re a private corporation,” Miller said. “We lost money. We’re going to pay people back.”

H1 Unlimited, which sanctions hydroplane racing, added the Labor Day weekend races to this year’s schedule after meeting with Miller last week. The Diamond Cup set up a seven-month payment plan to erase a $58,000 balance it owes H1 Unlimited for last year’s races. The group also agreed to financial terms for this year’s event and put down a $5,000 deposit.

“I am glad we were able to resolve the issues that were standing in the way of announcing the 2014 Diamond Cup, and I speak for all of our owners, race teams, officials and fans when I say we are looking forward to returning to beautiful Coeur d’Alene Labor Day weekend,” Sam Cole, chairman of H1 Unlimited, said in a statement.

Diamond Cup still owes an undisclosed sum to Portland-based Starplex Corp. for its 2013 contract with Crowd Management Services. Starplex recently offered a settlement amount, but the Diamond Cup has yet to accept the offer.

Diamond Cup also owes $22,546 to Kootenai County Fire Rescue for fire and medical services in 2013.

The sponsor last month reorganized its corporate structure, setting up a new limited liability corporation, Diamond Cup Unlimited. The purpose is to bring additional owners into the corporate fold, Miller said. That includes his partner Keith Kroetch, of Kroetch Land and Timber, who helped underwrite operating costs last year.

Asked if the restructuring also is intended to allow the races to proceed unencumbered by last year’s debts, Miller replied, “That wasn’t the main purpose of it, no. … It just made it easier to move forward with a whole new operating agreement so that we can bring other owners into the picture.”

Miller said neither he nor Kroetch have paid themselves from Diamond Cup revenues. “We’ve not taken any money out of this thing. We’re starving to death,” he said.

The goal is to build the Diamond Cup into a regular stop on the H1 Unlimited tour, he said. This summer it will include a new class of boats, 5-liter hydroplanes, along with the H1 Unlimited and Grand Prix West classes that competed last year.

“The way we’re looking at it, last year was our learning year,” Miller said. “This year we’re paying off our student loans and moving this thing forward. Eighty, 90 percent of what we did, we did right last year. It was a very successful event.”

Organizers figure there were thousands of people last year who got close enough to watch the races, on land and water, without paying admission. They say they’ll crack down on party-crashers this summer, including better perimeter fencing and security on the shore, and tighter controls on boat traffic.

“We just have to do a better job of recapturing our revenue – the revenue that’s due to us – for the people who show up. That’s our job,” Miller said.

“Our goal is to collect from 30,000 people this year, and we’re golden,” he added.

The Diamond Cup must secure a variety of state and local permits to hold the races along East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive in the Silver Beach area. That includes a marine event permit from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office said that permit will be contingent on the Diamond Cup first obtaining permits from the state transportation and parks departments and Kootenai County Fire & Rescue, as well as contracts for crowd management and spectator transportation. The sheriff gave the organization until July 1 to meet those conditions.

Before they were brought back last year, hydroplanes last raced on the lake in 1968.

This story was updated to correct an error regarding the payment due to Portland-based Starplex Corp. for its 2013 Crowd Management Services contract with the Diamond Cup. That payment had not yet been made.

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