Once home to hydroplane racing, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho now home to hydroplane memorialPosted: Updated:
For 9 out of 10 years from 1958 to 1968, hydroplane racing was an annual event at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho about 40 miles east of Spokane, Washington. More than 100,000 took over the small town to watch the first races in 1958 when 14 boats raced.
Today, all that's left is a memorial to drivers that have died in the sport.
Near the boat docks in the shadow of the Couer d'Alene resort, there's a cubed stone platform. On top of the pedestal is a metal hydroplane boat. The stylized rooster tail behind the boat swoops upward and forms the base for a jet fighter plan.
The plaque states: "In Memory of Warner E. Gardner, Lt. Col. U.S.A.F. (Ret.) and Fellow Drivers Who Devoted So Much To Hydroplane Racing."
Despite its location, Gardner actually died in a hydroplane accident in Detroit at the 1968 Gold Cup driving the Miss Eagle Electric.
The year Gardner died was the final year of racing at Coeur d'Alene. Billy Shumacher won the final race there in Miss Bardahl. Schumacher would go on to win the National Championship in 1968.
There have been several attempts to bring hydroplane racing back to northern Idaho. Each time, old timers reminded residents about some of the crowds that got out of control at the races.
While it's been reported that hydroplane racing has been permanently banned because of crowd activity, the truth is racing stopped because event organizers had trouble pulling together the volunteer base they needed to put on the races. The races were cancelled in 1967 for that reason. After a final race in 1968, they were ended for good.
Gardner -,memorialized at Coeur d'Alene - was one of 15 fatalities in the sport, including three in one afternoon in 1966 in the day dubbed "Black Sunday."
Hydroplane racing fatalities
Orth Mathiot - Seattle, WA
Thom Whittaker - Seattle, WA
Bob Hayward - Detroit, MI
Ron Musson - Washington, D.C.
Don Wilson - Washington D.C.
Rex Manchester - Washington D.C.
Chuck Thompson - Detroit , MI
Bill Brow - Tampa, FL
Warner Gardner - Detroit, MI
Tommy Fults - San Diego, CA
Skip Walther - Miami, FL
Jerry Bangs - Seattle, WA
Bill Muncey - Acapulco, Mexico
Dean Chenoweth - Kennewick, WA
George Stratton - San Diego, CA