Sunday, June 16, 2013

HYDROMANIA: LOOKING BACK IN HOPES OF MOVING FORWARD…

When a business plan fails to work properly, it is a common practice to assess the reasons why, and to rewrite the plan to address the issues that have led to the deficits and failures. With a reported deficit of nearly $7,500, it was apparent that the 1958 business plan formulated by the Board of Directors of the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association (CUHA) had serious errors in its make-up, so every aspect of the plan was formally reviewed in the days following the inaugural race.

The CUHA leadership knew going into the race that expenses for the first year would likely be larger than those for the races that followed it, and they budgeted accordingly. There was no infrastructure in place at the outset of planning for the event, so everything needed to make the race functional had to be built from scratch including the pit area, starting clock, buoys and anchors, spectator seating, and the official barge. The budget reflected the need for these items, which were costs that would be largely unnecessary for future races once the infrastructure was in place.

What the committee did not foresee and could not plan for was the number of paying customers that attended on race day. To their surprise, the head count for the weekend turned out to be one-seventh of the anticipated crowd size. Saturday’s windy, rainy weather and perhaps a fear of being caught in massive traffic jams had kept the crowd closer to 30,000 than the 200,000 plus originally projected by the committee.

After much discussion the CUHA decided to rewrite their plan and to begin work on a second Diamond Cup. Their first action was to select their leadership. John S. Richards stayed on as Commodore, as did Duane Hagadone as his assistant. Banker Martin Chesnutt took over as secretary and Norris Benson stayed on as treasurer.

The leadership then focused on the three biggest issues facing the CUHA:

  1. how to retire the debt from the first race
  2. how to go about getting “new blood” involved on race committees
  3. how to properly lay the groundwork for a successful second annual race

To resolve the first issue, a small group of the CUHA board elected to sign a promissory note from their own funds to cover the full $7,500+ debt in its entirety (in 2013 dollars this represented a $60,635 commitment). The committee also organized a Christmas dance to be held at six separate locations around town as the first step in retiring the note. The locations included the Boots and Saddle supper club, the Athletic Round Table, the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Club, the Coeur d’Alene Elks Lodge, the Sourdough Inn supper club, and the Coeur d’Alene Eagles Lodge.

To initiate a plan to attract new blood to the race committees, the CUHA leaders organized a public meeting for the following week and made a call for all potential volunteers to attend. As a special incentive, a color movie of the ’58 race was added to the meeting agenda to attract the attendance of more volunteers.

Application was made to the American Power Boat Association for a 1959 race date, and the sanction approval was received in mid-November. The boats would be racing a month later under the new sanction dates of July 18th and 19th. It was hoped that the July dates would guarantee better weather for the event.

In early May, the CUHA made a bold move to jump start the fund raising for the ’59 race. The plan was to ask the television media to pay the committee a flat fee of $10,000 for the broadcasting rights to the race. They also asked the television stations in Spokane to black out the race locally and indicated that if there were no local black out that there would be no television coverage allowed at all.

In modern times, it is not unusual to have sports events blacked out in their primary viewing areas unless the event is sold out. In 1958, this was far from the norm, and it elicited an immediate backlash from the APBA and the Spokane television stations.

The APBA fired a directive off to the CUHA, telling the committee in no uncertain terms that they risked withdrawal of the race sanction if they didn’t rescind the $10K demand for the right to televise the event.

A virtual war of words followed. The CUHA claimed there was no rule that precluded them from selling their media rights, and that the APBA had changed the rules after the sanction had already been received.

While the television issue was being resolved by a sub committee appointed to deal with the issue, another committee was created to focus on a pending fund raising drive and on meeting the committee budget.

The announced fund raising goal for the ’59 race was set at nearly $25,800 if the group was to stay in the black. With only two months until race day, frenzied weeks of fund raising would be needed to raise the required amount.

In hopes of reducing the bottom line, the financial committee also revisited the budget and set about trimming marginal items. They also made a concerted effort to organize volunteer labor whenever possible and to seek donations of needed materials. By doing so, they were able to meet the goal with the money raised in the early stages of the fund raising drive.

With the financial pressure off, the CUHA turned its attention to planning for the race. With a projected field of up to sixteen boats, much needed to be done to get things ready for the influx of hydros and spectators.

Fearing that there would not be enough room for the anticipated larger field of boats, the committee decided to initiate an expansion of the third street pit area. The plan would enlarge the existing facility by eighty-five feet to a full 100 yards in length. The new area would allow a minimum of fourteen boats to fit in the new space and on the water below the seawall, with room to create a second line for additional boats if needed behind the first contingent.

This photo shows the finished expansion of the Third Street pit area with new pilings, rip rap, and ladders along the eighty-five feet of new seawall.

Museum of North Idaho Photo

Costs were kept at a minimum, with Morrison-Knudson donating use of a dragline excavator to deepen and lengthen the channel in front of the new section of seawall to a depth of nearly six feet. The excavator removed an estimated 1,800 cubic yards of material as it increased the waterway in front of the boat launch incline.

The Atlas Tie lumber mill donated pilings for the seawall expansion, Fred Murphy’s pile driver put them in place, and the Diamond-Gardner lumber mill donated the wood needed to build the rip rap and ladder system for the new section.

The work took place over the course of the last week in June, and during that time the area was a veritable beehive of activity. The work was completed in record time with a small group of skilled labor donated by the local carpenter’s and operating engineer’s unions.

Things were definitely looking up as the committee faced the final two weeks before the race. The CUHA was even better prepared than they were the year before to put on a boat race, and they felt they had successfully addressed the deficits in their business plan to ensure that the second year of the Diamond Cup was a roaring success.

Indeed, it was finally time to put the finishing touches in place and to get the boats wet once again.


NEXT INSTALLMENT: Diamond Cup Week '59 and more...
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: The 1958 Diamond Cup Race and its Aftermath.

Steve Shepperd
Author/Historian
Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs

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