Aquatennial seeks powerboat races on the Mississippi

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April 19, 2004 // UPDATED 1:19 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

The 2004 Minneapolis Aquatennial is floating a new, if noisy, event: Mississippi River power boat races looping between the Broadway Avenue and Plymouth Avenue bridges.

Diercks Entertainment/Sports, in association with the Minneapolis Downtown Council, the Aquatennial's sponsor, has asked the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to support the 2004 powerboat race as a demonstration event.

If successful, the 2005 event could get corporate sponsors and expand the race loop further south toward Downtown, with Boom Island as a staging area, organizers said.

Superintendent Jon Gurban said the Park Board did not have regulatory authority unless the event organizers wanted to use Park Board land. "It is my belief they came to us in good faith," he said.

Gurban said Park staff is meeting with race organizers and getting more information. He did not expect a Park Board report until early May.

This year's Aquatennial runs July 16-25. If the power boat race gets traction, it would need a U.S. Coast Guard permit to proceed.

Charles Diercks of Diercks Entertainment and Lisa Dinndorf, the Aquatennial's executive director, made an initial inquiry at the Park Board's April 7 meeting. Park Board members raised numerous questions but took no action.

Diercks told Park Board members that the event's goal "is to build a premiere sporting event that will benefit the community, showcase Minneapolis, the Aquatennial and the Mississippi riverfront, and provide good family entertainment."

He acknowledged the race would be noisy, "there is no getting around it," he said. "If we run into issues with the community ... we will have to delay it until we get it right."

The power boat races would last 35 to 45 minutes each and include practice runs and qualifying heats, he said. Conceivably, the races could run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on a Friday-Saturday-Sunday, depending on the number of entrants.

The 2004 event would gauge public acceptance, city involvement and event management, Diercks said.

Gurban did not have an opinion on the race yet, he said. He wants to discuss noise and parking issues with event organizers.

"I remember as a youngster growing up, seeing the power boat races on Lake Calhoun," Gurban said. "Those were shut down, mostly from an annoyance factor from the surrounding residences."

Commissioner Annie Young said she worried about pollution. "I am very opposed to power boats on the river," Young said. "I need to know some environmental impacts before I vote on this."

Commissioner Walt Dziedzic said the promoters needed to talk to riverfront residents. He also wanted assurances that the Park Board would share in event profits.

President Jon Olson said he thought river races held years ago were exciting. "I think we will come up with a solution," he said.