Ready to Race
City should look sharp for hovercraft event
January 29, 2002
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
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
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