RUMSON, N.J. - The Dad Vail regatta's departure from Philadelphia next year became almost official last night, when local leaders tentatively agreed to host the collegiate rowing event in May.
In a letter approved by the Borough Council last night, the town made a number of stipulations to the organizers before final approval is granted, including a clause stating that $250,000 in local fund-raising is not guaranteed.
"We'll probably raise it. People here are very excited," said Mayor John Ekdahl. "We just can't guarantee it."
Jack Galloway, chairman of the Dad Vail organizing committee, said he was confident that the town would raise the money.
"They have a fleet of boats that would make any school [in the Philadelphia area] jealous," he said in a telephone interview after the meeting. He characterized the stipulations as "routine."
Speculation over whether the event might remain in Philadelphia erupted this week after it was found that organizers recently asked the Schuylkill Navy to continue to hold the river for them over the May 8 weekend.
In an interview, Dad Vail president Jim Hanna said that request was a contingency should Rumson, a coastal town south of New York City known as an enclave for Wall Street financiers, back out.
Neither Hanna nor Galloway attended last night's meeting.
The event, the largest of its kind in the nation, has been in Philadelphia for 56 years and drew 30,000 spectators to the city last May. In October, Dad Vail organizers voted to move to New Jersey, at least temporarily, after Rumson pledged $250,000 in private donations if the Dad Vail moved to the Navesink River.
Estimates call for 10,000 to 12,000 visitors to stream into Rumson for the regatta.
Some residents are wondering why Rumson, with limited river access and narrow roads, was selected.
"It's all private land. The only place the public can watch is from the bridge," said one resident, Todd Thompson. "I think it's being pushed through, and it's going to cause an unreasonable inconvenience on the people who live here."
Rowing has taken off in Rumson in recent years. Children of the town's famously affluent families row in a program run by the borough, and the high school recently started a crew team, said Ted Pahler, a local contractor.
"I go clamming out on the river, and when I see someone rowing by, it's a wonderful thing to see," he said. "Having this race here, I think it's going to be a great thing for the town."
The regatta ran into financial problems ahead of this year's race after some key sponsors dropped out and the nonprofit was forced to dip into its reserve funds, according to Dad Vail leaders.
Philadelphia's $70,000 bill for hosting the regatta, which included additional police and other city services, was identified as one area to cut costs, Hanna said.
"Our existence past 2011 was in question if we stayed," he said.
Dad Vail organizers will have to pay any additional costs incurred by Rumson, including police overtime, Ekdahl said.
"There's still some fine planning to do," he said. "But we have the hard data from last year's event."
The agreement between the Dad Vail and Rumson applies only to 2010, and Hanna said he was open to the regatta's returning to Philadelphia next year.
"We have to discuss that with Philadelphia," he said. "We could end up right back in the same problem, so we'd like them to cap costs. But we're not asking the city for a dime."
Rumson officials said they would wait to see how this year's event goes before beginning any campaign to take it on permanently.
Pahler, who makes a living building multimillion-dollar homes in Rumson and surrounding towns, wondered how the town's wealthier residents would react to the influx of thousands of crew fans.
"There are a lot of families that have been three or four generations, who value their privacy," he said. "There might be some resistance to all these people driving through our roads."