After permit denial, Sprint Nationals gets a second chance to roar at Marine Stadium

The Sprint Nationals boat race, originally planned for the Aug. 4 and 5 weekend at Marine Stadium, isn’t sunk yet.

Despite a hard denial of its permit in early June, the 70-year-old race has one more chance to leap over a few hurdles and return to the stadium Aug. 17 and 18 as the 2019 ARP Long Beach Spring Nationals—The Greg Duff & Phil Bergeron Memorial Race, Presented by Nick Rose Insurance.

Greg Duff was the 36-year-old racer who died following an accident in last year’s race; Phil Bergeron was a speedboat builder and racer who died in April of pancreatic cancer at the age of 74.

After the permit denial last month, Tasha Day, director of the city’s Office of Special Events & Filming, said city departments got together and compiled a list of regulations and stipulations to be fulfilled by Ross Wallach, the president of the Southern California Speedboat Club, which has been putting on the race for the last 20 years.

One sticking point for Wallach is the city’s demand that the race will be required to post a $10 million insurance policy, while in previous years he was only required to have a $1 million policy. “That will add $20,000 or $30,000 to our cost,” said Wallach. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense. That’s what you’d pay for a Formula 1 auto race. Even my insurers think it’s too much.”

Risk-management consultant Carl Southwell said he was asked to determine what the coverage should be. “I thought $10 million would be appropriate.” Southwell said that at some point in the past the race took out a $5 million policy, then it went down to $1 million. “It ought to be $10 million, or $5 million at a minimum,” he said.

Further, the city wants Wallach to pay for water-quality tests at the stadium seven days before and seven days after the event, something he’s never been asked to do, he said.

Other stipulations he has no problem with. “Disaster plans? I’ve got ‘em,” said Wallach. “They want CAD drawings of the site? We can do that.”

Still, it’s a reprieve of sorts for the popular event, and Wallach is both optimistic and, well, not so much.

“We’re trying to raise the money for the insurance,” he said. “I hope the city is amenable to what my insurers have to say. We’ve never had a lawsuit filed against us, so it seems like an undue burden. We can do as much as we can and the city can just say ‘no, that’s it.’”

Wallach loves Marine Stadium, and every race he’s thrown at the site has been a sell-out.

“It holds an important history in Long Beach, and the city should embrace that,” he said. “The history of the stadium and racing and the evolution of boating is all because of the race. I think it would be a tragedy if it went away.”

Time is money, now. Wallach is going to have to submit his plans to the city in the next few weeks, because the city will require 21 days to review the revised application and give the race a thumbs up or down.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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