Our Voice: Landing the Gold Cup speaks well of Tri-Cities

The Water Follies is going to bring the Super Bowl of its sport to the Tri-Cities next summer.

The American Power Boat Association’s Gold Cup will move here from Detroit in 2015.

And that is a big deal.

The HAPO Gold Cup will add to the celebration of 50 years of unlimited hydroplane racing in Tri-Cities July 24-26.

For perspective: “It’s our Stanley Cup. It’s our World Series, our Daytona 500. It is the brass ring,” said an official with the hydroplane racing association.

The vice president of the Tri-Cities Water Follies puts it this way: “I tell them ‘Imagine we live in Phoenix and we have the Fiesta Bowl every year. Now that’s a big event. But then I say we want to host the Super Bowl. Then they understand.’ ”

While it’s not entirely clear what the added expenses will be for the Water Follies to sponsor the Gold Cup, the board of directors is confident it can make it work. The organization has committed to adding extra prize money for the top three finishers.

This won’t be the first time for the Gold Cup here. The last time was in 1984. Detroit has played host for the race since 1990, but the group recently announced it would not host the event again and the Water Follies was quick to act.

Boat race fans here should benefit from the Gold Cup. As many as 15 or 16 boats could hit the Columbia River, which would mean another heat race in the preliminaries. A Gold Cup would have a minimum of nine races and a maximum of 13. A regular Columbia Cup would have around seven.

For those among us who love to hear the roar of the boats, it should be a good year.

And what great timing for the Water Follies — that any event can survive for 50 years is a testament to the community and the volunteers who make it happen each and every summer.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the hydroplane festival. From the hard-partying days of the 1980s, the event has evolved to a more civilized and organized function. Even during years when the financial footing was unstable, somehow, some way, the community always has rallied to save the day. In recent years, Lamb Weston and now HAPO Credit Union have stepped into the title sponsorship role, providing a significant boost to the event’s bottom line providing a more stable financial picture.

Improvements to the event and the popular corporate tent program have helped with attendance and enjoyment. Some issues with shoreline access on the Pasco side has been the main gripe heard in recent years.

With tourism at the forefront of many discussions going on in the community, playing host to the Gold Cup for its golden anniversary is quite a coup.

Congratulations to the Water Follies for 50 years of fun and bringing the Gold Cup back to the Tri-Cities.