After suffering through a difficult year in 2017 by resorting to a no-points, four-boat H1 Unlimited program on the Ohio River, the Madison Regatta has once again rebounded by securing a $50,000 title sponsorship for 2018 from Madison-based Midwest Tube Mills, owned by Rick Russell. Russell presented the check to the Regatta Committee and president Dan Cole at a Jan. 10 press conference, held at the MTM factory.
“We just saw how the Regatta struggled to get by last year, and we didn’t want to see it go away, so we decided to get involved in a bigger way,” Russell said in explaining his reason to step up as the title sponsor in 2018.
“My wife and I were born and raised in Madison, and we love taking our family to the river each year for the Regatta. And we know that a lot of other families around Madison like to do the same. The event brings lots of people back to Madison. It’s just a great weekend for families to get together.”
Photo by Don Ward
Midwest Tube Mills owner Rick Russell (far left) presents a check for $50,000 to Madison Regatta President Dan Cole (second from right). Also pictured are Russell’s two sons, Kyle and Steven, and employee Harold Perry (far right).
Cole said the negotiations had been ongoing for two years with Russell and MTM, which last year served as the sponsor of the Grand Prix race program. This is the company’s 25th anniversary, and Russell said that played a role in his decision to make the contribution “We plan to use the opportunity to promote our company’s 25 years in business.”
Cole reported that Regatta committee membership is up to 52 paid people – the highest level in many years. It costs $25 a year for membership. The all-volunteer committee meets monthly throughout the year, and then weekly as it gets closer to race weekend.
Midwest Tube Mills Inc. is an industry leader in the manufacture and sales of steel rolled tubing for fences. It has clients in the lower 48 states and several off shore locations. It’s products are used primarily in government and highway projects.
Cole thanked the Russell family for its commitment and said this year’s race, set for July 7-8, will be called the Midwest Tube Mills – Indiana Governor’s Cup Madison Regatta. “It will be the 68th running of the Madison Regatta,” he added. “It’s going to be the best boat racing weekend ever.”
The sponsorship money, along with smaller donations from 30-40 other local companies, will go a long way toward paying down the organization’s current $42,000 debt and help with early deposits to secure bands for next summer’s music portion of the weekend events, and with funding the Regatta’s final counter offer to bring back an eight-boat H1 Unlimited field. That proposal was made in December to H1, and Cole says the committee has set a Jan. 30 deadline to receive an answer. Cole said he hopes to be able to make an announcement about H1 Unlimited’s decision at the committee’s next monthly board meeting, set for Feb. 7.
“We have made a very competitive proposal that is on par with what the other race sites around the country pay to have the H1 Unlimiteds,” said Cole, 57, who is serving as president for the second consecutive year. “We have been on salty ground with the H1 Unlimiteds in recent years, but we are now trying to get them back and work out something that works for everyone. We felt it was unfair for the race sites to have to go out and find sponsorships for the individual race teams.”
The Regatta spends nearly a half million dollars each year to put on its race weekend, reported board member Matt True. Last year, the committee started off in the hole and is still trying to pay back its older debts while securing enough sponsorship money to put on this year’s event.
Cole broke with tradition last year by adding a musical component to the weekend’s festivities. The Saturday night concert at Madison Bicentennial Park featured The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and cost an extra $10 to attend with wristband or $15 without. The concert was part of the Regatta committee’s effort to raise enough money to pay its bills and debts.
Cole reported that the Regatta was a success last year in that it paid off its bills and then some. The weekend also featured the small Grand Prix boats, which already have committed to return to Madison for the third year in 2018.
“I love car racing, and these Grand Prix boats are really loud and enjoyable to watch,” said Russell, a Madison native. “But I also know a lot of people love to see the big Unlimiteds race, so we hope that the Regatta can work things out to get them back here this year.”
Cole added, “We know that a lot of people feel that it wouldn’t be a Madison Regatta without the Miss Madison out there on the river, so we are very hopeful that H1 will accept our proposal, so we can move forward.’
Cole said several changes are being planned to expand the music portion this year and to offer “two days of competitive boat racing” on the Ohio River. The Regatta committee plans to have two nights of live music at Madison Bicentennial Park and two days of racing – all for only a $35 wristband. Or fans can purchase for $20 a wristband for only the music or only the boat racing, he said.
“We plan to follow the Madison Ribberfest’s blueprint and expand our music,” Cole said. “So we will have music at night and boat racing during the day.”
Cole said he hopes to be able to announce the music headliner by early February and present the winning entry of the ongoing Madison Regatta new logo contest.
Cole said the popular food trucks also would be returning. “And we have had some interest from some microbreweries to come and set up,” he said.
Camping options also are expanding, primarily due to the interest in music fans’ affinity for camping. This year, Cole and the committee are working on plans to allow fans with a wristband can pay an upcharge fee to camp at Jaycee Park on the east end of Vaughn Drive, or they can camp for free under the Milton-Madison Bridge, he said.
The committee also has put in place a wristband compliance officer to monitor the sale and delivery of wristbands to ensure that they are properly managed.
• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.
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