Saturday, March 28th, 2009
By William Kincaid
2009 Regatta could be racing toward oblivion
  The Governor's Cup Regatta at grand lake may sink this year unless additional sponsors commit to the annual race.
It would be the first time Celina has gone without the regatta in 14 consecutive years.
"We haven't given up 100 percent yet," Co-Chairman Tom Saddler told the newspaper during an interview on Friday afternoon.
Because of the troubled economy, some of the cup's major sponsors have pulled out, Saddler said.
Saddler said only 50 to 60 percent of funds have been committed so far. The budget requires $60,000 in cash and another $10,000 to $20,000 in trade outs - essentially barters that one company or medium will exchange for services in lieu of money.
"Thank God, the nationals were last year," Saddler said.
Last year, Celina hosted the Summer Nationals for the first time, bringing in a record crowd of over 30,000 spectators.
The committee will wait until the deadline of May 1 before making a final decision.
Normally the committee does not send out commitment letters to its loyal base of sponsors - of whom around 95 percent contribute each year - until March, Saddler said. In previous years, 50 percent of sponsorship money would come through checks without the committee members having to make follow-up calls.
Cognizant of the sour economy, the committee started earlier this year, setting up personal one-on-one interviews with past sponsors for the first time ever.
But the results were not positive.
"The economy is tough," Saddler said, pointing out the committee is still pursuing other options.
The committee looked for ways to cut costs from the budget, but there are certain provisions that must be paid for.
"We have, like any business, a fixed level of expenses ... What can we cut without ruining the show," he said.
Those fixed costs include tents, insurance, race officials and prize money - all of which most be set aside early. But the committee does have some flexibility with marketing.
Saddler said the committee does not want to take a loan because of various risks. Although it has a carryover - which Saddler chose not to disclose - that small cushion is needed to balance possible exceeded budgets or cover the unforeseen, such as the possibility of the volunteered cranes and operators charging in the future.
He also pointed out that contributions to the race are not just donations.
People feel like they get value for what they donate from sponsorships, Saddler explained.
Depending on the level of contribution, sponsors may get their logos printed on the race program, in printed media, cable TV spots, hydroplanes and billboards.
Sponsorship also can include mention on the event P.A. and radio stations, VIP passes, a corporate tent and banners.
"We just try to do everything we can for them," Saddler said.
Saddler also pointed out the committee is a non-profit organization that puts all returns into additional marketing and advertising. It is intended to provide a race for the community and to promote the area.
"The goal of this event has never been to make money," he said.
In its 13 years, admission to the event has been free - unlike other venues where spectators are often charged multiple times, Saddler said.
Saddler fears Celina could lose the race in the future if it doesn't hold it this year.
"We worry a little bit about that - it's possible someone could start up another race," he said.
This would be a great year to hold the race as people may take smaller trips because of the economy, he said.
The Celina Governor's Cup Regatta was started by the Celina Lions Club and the St. Marys Boat Club in 1958, Saddler said. The race lasted until 1970. It was revived again in 1995.
Saddler can be reached at 419-305-4281 and committee member Allen Baskett can be contacted at 419-586-9622.
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