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City should look sharp for hovercraft event

January 29, 2002
Tribune Star

By Lori Henson

Chris Fitzgerald knows how to put on a show.

Invoking the spirit of Hoosier racing and even James Bond, the hovercraft guru Monday kicked off the beginning of a big year for his craft in Terre Haute.

With city leaders seated in one of his company's hovercraft, he waved a green flag to launch preparations for the World Hovercraft Championship Sept. 15-22 at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center and other sites along the Wabash River.

Fitzgerald, a founder of Hoverclub of America and president of Neoteric Hovercraft Inc. of Terre Haute, hosted city leaders and hovercraft organization representatives Monday, announcing details of the coming races and other events leading up to the big show.

He challenged the city to be ready "cleaning itself up," enforcing trash ordinances and preparing for increased traffic and hospitality needs for the more than 1,000 enthusiasts.

"We want to put on a show and really impress them," he said, before a panel of city leaders, including Mayor Judy Anderson.

Fitzgerald told the crowd, which included representatives from the local universities, city government and business, the "Pride City" must look sharp for the visitors from more than 20 nations.

"Terre Haute will be what they see of the United States," he said.

Fitzgerald and David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau, also encourage residents to host foreign participants of the races. As many as 50 families will be needed to meet the demand and to help the visitors feel more welcome, Patterson said.

Those interested in serving as a host can call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (812) 234-5555.

Organizers already are recruiting Terre Haute North Vigo High School students to act as translators for French and Spanish-speaking visitors.

And, ever the showman, Fitzgerald told the crowd he is trying to contact MGM/Universal Studios to do some promotional tie-ins with the new James Bond movie, which features 007 actor Pierce Brosnan driving a hovercraft over a waterfall during a chase sequence. No deal has been struck for such a promotion.

For those uninterested in hovercraft or James Bond, Patterson said the economic benefits of the races should interest Hoosiers. He expects each of the 1,000 expected visitors to spend about $100 a day at the weeklong event. And tourism money generally rolls over seven times in a community, furthering its impact.

But Fitzgerald is optimistic that the spectacle and obscurity of the vehicle that is much more popular overseas will draw attention from Americans seeing it race for the first time.

"This new-fandangledness of it ... will attract people to the sport," he said.

Fitzgerald said he has faith that the city can rally together to host a show on an Olympic-event scale.

"I think the city is as ready as any other city," he said. "We've got to get people willing and keen to go out there and clean up the place."

For more information, access the World Hovercraft Championship Web site at www.whc2002.com

Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc.
1649 Tippecanoe Street Terre Haute, Indiana USA 47807-2394
Telephone: 1-812-234-1120 / 1-800-285-3761 Fax: 877-640-8507

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