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Organizers: Diamond Cup races bound to happen next year

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Event crewman for A-Z Rental Chris Teuscher, left, pulls a cover from a tent structure as co-worker Kelly Elmgren helps free up a tie point Monday as they work to tear down the vendor area of the 2013 Coeur d'Alene Diamond Cup along Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive.

COEUR d'ALENE - Wave the checkered flag, nearly everyone is calling it a success.

Organizers, spectators and Silver Beach neighbors said Monday the Diamond Cup Regatta lived up to the hype by pulling off a triumphant return to Lake Coeur d'Alene over the holiday weekend.

An old Lake City staple, the sanctioned hydroplane races were the first real runs since 1968.

Despite the 45-year hiatus, several people said it was like the races never missed a beat, as the boats roared, crowds mingled and traffic through the area, though delayed, didn't create a constant roadblock.

"I would say it was an epic weekend," said Jim Lien, a spectator who viewed the races tied up to a dock on a boat near the 2-mile race course near Silver Beach.

He described the boats, weather and crowds as "great" and was looking forward to next year.

"It was better than we thought it would be," he said. "I think they really thought this thing through, from my perspective."

Next year's races are bound to happen, too.

Diamond Cup President Doug Miller, who spent Monday cleaning up trash along the Centennial Trail as crews broke down and hauled away the racing set ups, said the event exceeded expectations.

"At this point it's very safe to say the Coeur d'Alene Diamond Cup is once again Idaho's biggest sporting spectacle," he told The Press Monday.

While numbers were still being crunched Monday after the three-day affair, Miller said that the race's attendance exceeded 53,000 people. Ticket sales hadn't been nailed down Monday either, but he had said in previous Press interviews that 12,000 to 15,000 spectators would mean organizers would break even on the event.

"We're very pleased. We definitely want to do it again next year," Miller said, a sentiment echoed by HI Unlimited organizers Sunday during the award ceremony. "We want this to be Idaho's No. 1 sporting event. That was one of our goals."

Pulling off the event took work.

The return was originally planned for last year before timing issues and support fell through and the event was canceled. Leading up to the event this year, organizers expressed concern about traffic issues along Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive, and asked spectators to bicycle, boat, bus or walk to the event to ease traffic jams.

Many did just that.

"We enjoyed it," said Mark Webb, who lives off Silver Beach Loop. He said the residential neighborhood right off the course didn't experience any negative effects from having so many people converging near their neighborhood. "We had a good time."

No litter, no illegally parked cars, no trouble getting to and from their houses, Webb said the event was a perfect fit for the neighborhood.

"I'd have no problem with it (returning)," he said. "I never ran into anybody who had a problem with it."

Webb's Silver Beach neighbor, Tim Leavitt, agreed.

Leavitt owns a vacation home near the race course, and made sure to visit Coeur d'Alene for the event. He's from the Tri-Cities, Wash., which also hosts hydroplane races, and said that the Coeur d'Alene race was on par with the long-established Washington one.

"I hope to hell they made enough money to do it again next year," he said.

As far as rowdiness, that didn't seem to happen, either.

A question for some in the community leading up to the race was how people would behave. In the 1960s, the race took on a bit of a black eye because drinking and rioting started to accompany the event. But police scanner activity didn't indicate a large amount of calls for service to the area, although the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Hanna Schwarz, server at O'Shay's Irish Pub and Eatery, said the restaurant didn't experience a slam of business because of the event, though. It was more like another day at the office, she said.

"We were hoping for a lot more (business)," she said, speculating that it was a family-friendly event where a pub setting wasn't the main draw.

Miller said the support of the community and sponsors made the event happen, and thanked the greater Coeur d'Alene area for making it so. He said organizers will look to fine tune some areas as they look at the numbers over the next few days to ensure the event happens next year without a hitch.

"That's all because of the support," he said.

The H1 Unlimited circuit will wrap up its season in San Diego Sept. 13-15.

Tim Leavitt was pleased with the hydroplane racing event that took place near his Silver Beach vacation home.

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