Weeks after the Dad Vail Regatta announced that it was leaving Philadelphia in 2010 for Rumson, N.J., race organizers said yesterday that they would be staying in the city after all.
"We have unanimity," regatta president Jim Hanna said after a news conference announcing the agreement. "We can stage a successful regatta in Philadelphia." Hanna met earlier in the day with Mayor Nutter, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and other city officials to come to a resolution on the issue.
City and Dad Vail officials pledged to work toward a multiyear agreement to hold the regatta in Philadelphia, where it's been held annually since 1953.
"There's still a lot of work to do, but the commitment has been made," Nutter said at the news conference.
Later, he said: "We'll sort through all the details. It's in May, so we have some time."
A multiyear arrangement would help streamline the city costs of the regatta, and help regatta organizers better predict the yearly cost of sponsoring the race. In the last five years, the regatta has seen its city operating costs go from zero to $70,000.
The city also provided a commitment to help upgrade the racecourse, Hanna said.
Event organizers had planned a move to Rumson after rising city operating costs and reduced sponsorships drained the regatta's treasury. Officials in Rumson had promised to help the regatta raise $250,000 to replenish its reserve funds.
However, Nutter and Brady, who was especially vocal about keeping the event in Philadelphia, pushed regatta officials to remain here.
"Once we start losing our traditions, we start losing our identity," Brady said.
"The regatta is absolutely worth fighting for," said Nutter, who met numerous times with race organizers.
Their persistence, coupled with the pledge of philanthropic help, paid off.
Herb Lotman, chairman and former chief executive of Keystone Foods Corporation and a co-founder of the McDonald's LPGA Championship, which benefits Ronald McDonald House, became a rowing fan after his grandchildren joined crew teams.
When he heard the race would be moving, he thought, "Maybe I should spend some time raising money to help Dad Vail," he said.
He spent an hour and a half last week urging Hanna - whose son taught Lotman's grandchildren to row - to keep the regatta in the city.
Lotman said he believed he would be able to wrangle sponsorships for the regatta from his business acquaintances. Another goal, he said, "is to develop a crew program for inner-city kids." In his work with the LPGA championship, he helped start a program in Wilmington, Del., that helped teach golf to thousands of inner-city youth.
Yesterday's news surprised Rumson officials.
"Obviously, we are very disappointed," said Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl. "We had been assured by Dad Vail that Rumson had been selected.
"We had never been told negotiations had been reopened in Philadelphia," he said, adding "We feel a bit betrayed."