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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Two strikes against Saratoga Rowing Association

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Two strikes against Saratoga Rowing Association

The news for the Saratoga Rowing Association was on par with the news on the economy this week and will have a negative impact on the local nationally recognized crew program.

Early in the week the SRA's request to the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors for a one-time donation of $30,000 for improving the current timing infrastructure (a high-speed permanent racing camera, timing system and tower), was declined. Of note, all four requests from different organizations were all declined at the Wednesday afternoon meeting.

This isn't the first time the SRA has struck out, the City of Saratoga Springs has always turned down the organization despite filling the cities hotels each year for its Head of the Fish Regatta in late October and each May for the New York State Scholastic Rowing Championships. SRA also hosts the smaller Tail of the Fish in late September/early October and in 2006 hosted the Scholastic Rowing Association of America National Championships all on Fish Creek on Saratoga Lake.

The economic impact of each regatta is staggering, filling hotel rooms, filling malls and theaters during each event. Just in sales tax and hotel room tax in Saratoga County, the numbers equate each year to over $186,000 for the entire county.

According to SRA Regatta Director Chris Chase, this year's Head of the Fish brought in more than 1,800 rowers and had hotels booked from Lake George through Clifton Park down to Latham.

Still not good enough for a $30,000 investment for an annual economic impact of more than $3 million each year gross. A one percent investment one time for a $3 million return annual. Now for a county I would call that a windfall, not a bailout.

The SRA was even armed with a letter from the president of the Scholastic Rowing Association guaranteeing that Fish Creek would become part of a four-year rotating sight, keeping those millions flowing in for the empty-pocketed, VLT revenue fearing city and county. Still no luck.

The news got worse for the SRA when New York State DOT announced it would be shutting down the Route 9P bridge adjacent to the State Boat Launch for approximately nine months and not building a temporary bridge next to it and then replacing it.

The clean cut removal and replacement will save the state $5 million in construction costs, but it will impact the two fall Fish Regattas along with the NYS championships. Rowers, parents, volunteers, trailers and fans will be able to make the 6 or 9 mile detour to get there, but won't have the bridge to watch the results from.

It also means that the start and finish of all of these events will now have to be moved up Fish Creek, impacting the start and finish logistics of these recreational, yet revenue producing events.

Things are tough all over, businesses are closing down, layoffs are occuring, sales are slow and in government with all the supervisors up for election in two years its easier to say no to anyone who wants money. It gives them the ability to stand tall on their "fically responsible" platforms. And who did they hurt? A couple of not for profit volunteers?

Supervisors be put on notice, the Saratoga Rowing Association has more than 175 rowers in it, many eligible seniors in high school who will be voting, their family member and volunteers who make it happen. This group raised enough money to build one of the best boathouses in the state and on the East Coast. They are business owners and leaders in their own right, not just "rowing moms" miffed because you said no to a measly $30k.

These are people who can do the math and know it was an investment in their community, their program and into their own economy. They're not going away mad. They're going to go to the polls with a long memory of how you refused to do the math.

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