UPDATE NOTE: Corrections to this column: Col. Warner Gardner was killed when the Eagle Electric crashed 100 yards from the finish line and victory in the Diamond Cup: It was NOT Dallas Sartz. Also, legendary driver Bill Muncey never drove the Thriftway Too, just the Miss Thriftway.
Most north Idahoans have strong opinions about multi-millionaire resort developer and newspaper mogul Duane Hagadone’s commitment to the well-being of Coeur d’Alene and north Idaho - indeed all of Idaho. Some see him as a generous philanthropist who gives both anonymously and publicly to many worthy causes.
Others see him as one who gives only when it serves pure self-interest.
To his partisan supporters, Hagadone is a gutsy hero who, at considerable risk, invested in the Coeur d’Alene Resort and its fine golf course, gambling that “build it” and they will come. There were no guarantees, but he built it and they did come.
Regardless of one’s views, of particular interest to many was the recent business decision to contribute $100,000 to the committee running the upcoming Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup Unlimited Hydroplane races over Labor Day.
For unlimited hydro fans, there is nothing in all of sports quite like the sound of five or six unlimited hydros, engines at full throttle, roaring down the straight stretch for the running start of a heat.The sport has always had drama because of competition between teams like Bernie Little’s Miss Budweiser and Olie Bardahl’s Miss Bardahl; and, because of colorful drivers like the Maverick’s Mira Slovak, an airline pilot from the Czech Republic who flew his plane to freedom during the Iron Curtain days. Or a driver like Billy Schumacher, who won the last Diamond cup in 1968 driving the Bardahl. Then there was the legendary Bill Muncey, who won over 50 of the races, usually driving Miss Thriftway and Thriftway Too. And there were the community owned boats, the Miss Spokane, the Miss Burien, and the longest lasting one, the Miss Madison.
That the sport was dangerous can be testified to the number of fine drivers, like Dallas Sartz, who died in the crash of Spokane’s Eagle Electric, Rex Manchester who once had piloted the Miss Spokane, and Muncey himself died in an accident in Mexico.
Now, unlimited hydro fans in the inland northwest, who usually have to travel to the Tri-Cities for the Atomic Cup or to Seattle for the Seafair race to get their annual fix, can stay close to home. Hagadone is betting that the youth riots which turned the community against the races some 40 years ago will not reoccur. Instead, it will be a fun-filled and enjoyable experience for all.
Before one heaps new huzzah’s on this complex yet extraordinarily successful businessman, one should best remember that like many of the super-rich, Hagdone’s actions reflect his apparent belief there are two sets of laws: one for him and one the rest of us. (more…)