Building new generations of fans for Unlimited Hydroplane racingPosted: Updated:
"We need new fans and a new generation of fans in our sport," said ABRA Chairman Sam Cole. "As I look around the room," he said to those in attendance at the ABRA's meetings, "I worry a bit, we're all graying."
"We need to find a different demographic."
Right now, that means trying to build a global audience for the sport of Unlimited Hydroplane racing. The effort is off to a great start with the recent announcement of the Oryx Cup race in Doha, Qatar.
International races can open the doors not just to a different demographic, but also to new dollars into the sport. "As we grow the sport in the Middle East, we'll all grow in professionalism," said Eric Corning, producer of the Chevrolet Cup in Seattle. "Teams will grow in funding."
"We have great loyalty to the events we have here," said Cole. "But we want to grow from there. We're trying to be a global sport and bring new dollars into the sport." Cole said they would love to have six here and six events abroad.
Another challenge Corning says ABRA is looking at is the way people view sports these days. "What's it like to sit on a beach for 12 hours for a sporting event?" he asked. "You come to a baseball game, that's four hours. Nascar race, two hours."
When you have a three-day day event like boat racing and all the time it takes to get boats in and out of the water and re-tool them for another run, it's difficult to get more than die-hard fans to invest the time to attend it all. "What do you see in a four hour block?" Corning posed. "How do you see the best of our sport in that time?"
Cole cited the Dash for Cash events in the Tri-Cities and Madison as a great way to generate excitement and capitalize on that idea after a day of qualifying. Even if it's an exhibition, a race holds more excitement for casual fans than a full day of qualifying and it suggests a way to get people down to the venue on Fridays. Maybe they'll like what they see and come back over the race weekend.