Spokane Journal of Business

Sprint boat race track constructed at Playfair

Spokane chosen to be part of regular racing circuit; ESPN to televise event here

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A Lewiston, Idaho, company called World JetSprinting Promotions Ltd. has constructed a mile-long $80,000 sprint boat race course in the grass infield of Spokanes Playfair Race Course, and plans to hold a racing event there this fall.

The course is designed to be used by aluminum, 13-foot-long jet sprint boats that usually are powered by 1,000-horsepower, alcohol-burning engines, says Jeremy ODriscoll, president of World JetSprinting Promotions, who lives in Australia. The boats usually have a top speed of about 90 mph and can accelerate from 20 mph to 75 mph in two seconds, ODriscoll says.

A day of racing will be held at Playfair on September 26 as part of a six-race series called World Series JetSprinting. The six-race series will include one other race in the U.S., in Boise, Idaho, plus two races in Australia and two in New Zealand, concluding in March. World JetSprinting Promotions also plans to begin building this month a course in Richland, Wash., that next year will replace Boise as one of the official race sites. The September races in Spokane and Boise will mark the first time World Series JetSprinting races have been held in the U.S.

ODriscoll says that the jet sprinting event absolutely will be held annually here, whether or not the event draws a large crowd for the upcoming race. World JetSprinting Promotions will pay Playfair an annual licensing fee to use the space. The company has made a three-year commitment to hold the racing event at Playfair, says Kim Rich, Playfairs general manager.

The one-mile race course at Playfair is made of 20-foot-wide canals that snake and criss-cross around the southwest section of Playfairs infield. The canals, which are lined on the bottom with clay, are expected to hold 18 inches of water and will take two days to fill.

Due to the twisting turns in the canals, an infinite number of course combinations is possible, ODriscoll says. Each boat will carry a driver and a navigator. The team is given a map just prior to each race that shows the required course for that race. A boat that deviates from that course is disqualified. Each team is judged by its finishing time, since only one boat can travel the course at a time.

Once the race day here is over, the water will be drained and the canals will be lined with sod, which will remain there until next years race event, says ODriscoll.

ODriscoll says World JetSprinting Promotions decided to build a race course in Spokane because most sprint boat racers from the U.S. live in the Pacific Northwest. He says he chose Playfair because it is a wonderful facility, and he adds that many facilities like Playfair no longer can support just one sport and are becoming multiuse facilities.

ODriscoll says that World Series JetSprinting has an extensive TV audience and that Spokanes race in September will be televised on ESPN.

Jet sprint boat racing began in New Zealand in 1980.

Competitors now come from the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia.

Playfairs horse racing track will not be affected by the sprint boat race course, says Don Johnson, president and CEO of Muckleshoot Tribal Horseracing Inc., which now owns Playfair. Johnson says Playfairs hope is that the boat racing will bring more people out to the facility.

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