RUMSON BEGINS READYING FOR ITS REGATTA

victorypark

A view of the Navesink River from Victory Park in Rumson, where many spectators will watch the 2010 Dad Vail Regatta. County officials have OK’d viewing from Oceanic Bridge. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Down in Philly, they’re crying a river and pointing fingers over the loss of the Dad Vail Regatta to sleepy little Rumson, New Jersey.

But in Rumson, which snagged the regatta last month from its Schuylkill River home of 56 years, officials are scrambling to organize a weekend-long sporting event that could bring 15,000 people to a town without a single hotel room and no structured seating along its riverfront.

They’re also taking steps to capture as much as possible of the of the millions of dollars in tourism-related spending the event throws off.

They can’t do it without outside help.

With an estimated 3,000 collegiate rowers, plus spectators, expected to descend upon Rumson for the races on May 7 and 8, local officials see the event as an economic shot in the arm for the Red Bank area.

The Philadephia Business Journal estimated that the regatta had a $16 million impact to the Philly region last year. Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl says it’s unlikely that greater Rumson can generate that much dough, but it will certainly have a huge impact on places like Red Bank, which has two large hotels and walkable shopping and dining districts.

“We’re not going to have the same crowd Philadelphia has, but I think the Two River area could bring in half of that. I think it’s possible to hit that number,” he said.

Ekdahl last week began reaching out to nearby officials, including Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna, in an effort to keep them apprised of plans and to coordinate planning.

Menna tells redbankgreen that Red Bank “is going to be pivotal. We’re obviously going to be the host for a lot of the participants.

“We’ve got the hotels, along with the stores and the restaurants,” he said. “So whatever way Red Bank can assist is going to be a boon” to the town’s merchants, he said.

Of course, Rumson has restaurants of its own, and Ekdahl said he’s urging more of them to take advantage of an ordinance that allows for outdoor dining. Details must be worked out, but Ekdahl said there’s a also chance there’ll be two hospitality tents, most likely with temporary liquor licenses, at Victory Park for local vendors to offer their cuisine.

Attendees would pay an entry fee to access the tents. Otherwise, all other viewing will be free.

And where to put spectators during the race? Ekdahl tells redbankgreen that Monmouth County officials have given the OK for spectators to watch the weekend races from the Oceanic Bridge. Of course, Victory Park, where the finish line is, will also be open for viewers to see all the action, Ekdahl said.

There are two possibilities for the bridge viewing. Because of its deteriorating parts on the bascule span, there’s a chance the bridge will be closed for repairs. In that case, Ekdahl said the fixed bridge, minus the bascule portion, can be used by spectators. The current three-ton weight limit won’t apply because, structurally, the bridge can bear all that weight, Ekdahl said.

If work is not being done, the west side of the bridge will be open to viewers while the east lane remains open for emergency vehicle access, as happens during the annual July 3 fireworks display.

And because the racing lanes don’t take up the whole width of the Navesink, Ekdahl said there’s a good probability that some people will watch the race on the river.

“I’m thinking there’s going to be some spectator craft,” he said. “That will be a great vantage, as well.”

Coincidentally, the 18th annual Rumson-Fair Haven Run is scheduled to take place the same weekend as Dad Vail, which would increase the area’s concentration of people. However, it could work out because the run doesn’t take place anywhere near the regatta, and Ekdahl said there could be an opportunity for cross-marketing for the events. He and R-FH Run coordinators will meet this week to discuss the options, which also include moving the run ahead or back a week.

“My gut reaction is to not change the date and actually do some cross-marketing,” Ekdahl said. “Logistically it (the run) doesn’t get in the way at all, which is a good thing.”