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Silverdale Thunder hydros won't likely roll this summer
The annual Silverdale Thunder hydroplane races have sputtered, at least for a year, and lean pocketbooks and low tides may spell a permanent end for the summer event.
Either way, chances aren't good for a Dyes Inlet race in August.
Saying money is thin given the economic climate and that it's become too difficult to find major sponsors, event coordinator and lead sponsor Jonathan Miller is doubtful the Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing Association-sanctioned races will return to Dyes Inlet this summer.
Miller, who owns Boomtown Productions, said he has put up about $25,000 toward the event each of the past four years. That money, coupled with the support of other sponsors, has been enough to keep the races afloat.
But businesses have been reluctant to get behind the event in 2010.
"I'm not going to fight an uphill battle," Miller said.
The race costs about $60,000 to produce.
Unlimited Lights President Joe Frauenheim, however, said the primary reason the races may not return to Silverdale is because the tide is expected to be too low.
The races must take place on days when there are no "extreme" low tides in the afternoon, when boats are being launched and taken out of the water in large volumes, and that won't be the case the second weekend of August, typically when the races are held.
Frauenheim said the association is looking into alternative weekends on which to put the event in Silverdale — he didn't specify when — but there is a distinct possibility that won't happen.
"It's highly probable," he said of the event being cancelled.
But neither Frauenheim nor Miller ruled out the possibility of Thunder returning post-2010.
Frauenheim called the potential 2010 cancellation a "postponement" rather than a permanent termination. Miller, meanwhile, said Thunder could continue to grow if the money came in.
"I can definitely get the fire going," he said.
Silverdale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michael Broome said he hopes the race stays in Silverdale, but he has heard rumors it was going to be beached.
"I don't want to speculate, but people have speculated," Broome said.
Miller said the costs associated with "land operations," of which he has been in charge, range from about $2,000 for security and safety to upwards of $6,000 for marketing. The beer garden, live music, portable toilets and other accessories also carry costs, as does coming up with prize money for racers.
"It's amazing how fast all those things add up," he said.
About 10,000 people attended Thunder in 2009, Miller estimated, but there was no charge for admission. The event has always been free for spectators, although fans are charged a small fee for "pit passes," granting closer access to the drivers.
Miller said he contemplated charging admission fees when he took over coordinating duties for the event in 2007, but that it was "too big of a gamble" because hydroplane racing is a lesser-known sport and casual spectators may not want to pay to watch.
The event was originally called the "Quicksilver" races and first came to Silverdale in 2005, when the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce approached Unlimited Lights. The chamber came up with between $10,000 and $15,000 for two years, Miller said, but withdrew in June 2007.
A fireworks display artist who specializes in event planning, Miller took over Thunder in hopes of building a community event, not making money.
He feels as though his job is incomplete.
"If we could have kept it, I think it would have gotten better and it would have been great," Miller said. "It was getting better every year."