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An Open Letter To APBA Offshore Racers, Fans, Families and Sponsors

Old 09-20-2003, 06:00 PM
APBA Offshore
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Default An Open Letter To APBA Offshore Racers, Fans, Families and Sponsors

This past week was a true exercise in extremes. We fought so hard to secure Key West because our fans and racers wanted it badly so it was truly disappointing to have to forego a race there this year, particularly at such a late date.

On the other hand, we have secured a tremendous venue in Orange Beach, Alabama. The event will draw far more people and will receive far more mainstream media coverage because of its proximity to major population centers and the support from state and local officials. This means more fans for the future. Also, GMC has a top dealer group in the area that will help promote the event and further raise the profile of the sport, thus further solidifying the support of the most prolific sponsor in the history of the sport.

We did not leave Key West over simply the $75,000 sanction fee that the promoter refused to pay at the 11th hour. The hard costs for the event exceed $200,000 including city services, land rental, fencing, helicopters, etc. Regardless of whether there was a written agreement in place or not was not the issue either. We could not secure adequate guarantees that those bills would be paid. In the past we have picked up those kinds of bills when promoters have refused to pay. Indeed, we have done that more times in the past 5 years than you can possibly imagine.

Unfortunately, we were not in a position to pay them if that became necessary in Key West. The City could not pick up those costs and neither could the county. The lodging industry had apparently already committed monies to the promoter so they were not an option either. Key West, furthermore, does not have enough major businesses to support the balance of these expenses through local sponsorships and even if it did there was not enough time to secure commitments without risking that we could not move the event to another location in the event those efforts failed.

Moreover, we could not guarantee that the racers and our sponsors would not be required to pay surcharges to the promoter once they appeared at the event. Indeed, based on his past actions and conversations we had with the promoter this was certainly a very serious possibility and one we could not accept.

Nevertheless, we did all we could to work through these issues and had every intention in doing what we had to do to get through this year without taking such drastic action when, without warning, the promoter suddenly decided to stage his own event, independent of APBA Offshore. Again, we were privately handling this matter when he released his "invitation". We also learned from officials in Key West that he had been lobbying for changes to his TDC agreements to delete any and all requirements that he secure an APBA Offshore sanction as a prerequisite for receiving TDC funding. So it seemed pretty clear to us that he believed APBA Offshore was not a necessary element to a successful event.

Many of you will recall that this was precisely the same rationale used by promoters in Fort Myers and Sarasota years ago, causing a similar split.

Everyone must realize that none of us can afford to allow any promoter to believe that the APBA Offshore sanction and seal of approval are worthless. If we do then we will be forever doomed to remain a club sport with virtually no ability to secure bigger sponsors and sanction fees and thus ultimately more money for you.

Despite the terrible inconveniences this move has caused, we believe even more strongly today that what we did was in your best interest in light of the most recent revelations from Key West officials. Specifically, we have learned from both the city of Key West and the US Navy that the Navy property has not been secured for the event. Indeed, it appears as though the only way to do so now would be for some third party to pay the government contractor a huge sum of money to suspend its operations during the event. According to what we know, the promoter has made no such arrangements, thus putting the event in serious jeopardy.

The promoter had assured us that no such issues existed. Should we have done more to verify the veracity of his claims? Easy to second guess at this point but certainly we felt we could trust the information we were getting from our promoter who also was an LLC member. At the end of the day though, the buck stops with us and so this situation is absolutely our responsibility. Again, we apologize and all of the LLC members are working harder than ever to make the best out of a difficult and extremely aggravating situation.

We are a small business doing the best we can to operate using traditional sound business principles. We have a number of successful business people in our ownership group and each one of them will tell you, however, just how difficult it is to apply these principles in such an historically and consistently volatile environment. There is a good reason why previous attempts at making this sport what it deserves to be have failed.

OPT had millions of dollars in money and star power but yet it was "gone in 60seconds." Gene Whipp did much to turn the sport around. He was a visionary; a great leader and a man who put his money where his mouth was to make things happen for all of us. But even he suffered innumerable setbacks in the face of great adversity ultimately leading him to walk away after only two years at the helm.

When the LLC assumed control of the sport in 2000 we knew we had a tough fight in front of us. There were many who truly did not want to see the sport grow and prosper because it threatened their stranglehold on it. Others we knew would fight us because they simply opposed the changes we advocated and feared how history might treat them if we succeeded where they had failed for so many years.

That has been patently evident this year with the all out attempts by certain people to steal the business we have created over the past four years. Well, these battles cost us dearly both financially and in lost opportunities. Nevertheless, we fought hard and showed no weakness because we believe in this sport. We love this sport and we are committed to seeing this journey through.

No group of people have ever worked as hard or spent as much money exclusively to build the sport as the founding LLC members have done the past four years.

Despite it all we have produced great television; paid every dime of purse we committed to and staged a full schedule every year even if it has changed radically in mid-season on too many occasions for all of our tastes. And the events have improved in every way despite these obstacles.

But most importantly, we have built, with your help and commitment, a viable motorsports entertainment property. In other words, the basic product - APBA Offshore Racing - is exceptional. And we all did this together, on the fly, in less than 3 years. We fought the good fight and won. With this move to Orange Beach, the settlement of the lawsuits, and the support of GM and GMC, we believe we are about to emerge from the tunnel into the bright light of the future.

We recognize, however, particularly in the wake of the Key West situation, that as a sanctioning body we can no longer get by doing it all ourselves. The sanctioning body must be free to focus on working to improve the racing product - rules, hardware deals, inspections, lower the cost of racing, keep the playing field even, sponsorships, television, prize money, contingency money, high points money, licensing, merchandising, and branding, etc.

So here is what we must do now: We must capitalize on the racing product we have built. The first step in doing that is to construct a stable schedule that racers, fans, and sponsors can rely on 100% from the day it is published. These events must be professionally produced and managed by people who are exclusively dedicated to that objective. The relationship and communication between these people and the sanctioning body must be cooperative and there must be a mutual commitment to making this sport the best. We can do it. We now know what works. Get the fans close to the sponsors, the racers, and the racing. We have identified 21 venues throughout North America that fit our Stadium Style Racing model and now we must focus our efforts on securing them and making them work. We are working on an exciting comprehensive plan to do just that.

In the next 90 days we will be talking to you more about that plan and how it will positively impact all of you. But no matter how good that plan is, we will never get anywhere without a full-blown commitment from all of you. Please try to understand and appreciate where we are in terms of the history of our sport and the obstacles we have overcome to get here.

Yes, there always will be a time and place to voice your frustrations and concerns but everyone who believes they are part of the APBA Offshore family should always think first before they speak or act – Is what I am about to say or do going to be productive for what we are all trying to achieve?

We must all come together if we are going to break out of the “club mentality” which has existed for the past 50 years. Unification and a commitment to the task will lead to the result we all want. I am more confident of that than ever. We believe in you. None of us is in this for the short-term profit. We are in it because we all share the same vision that ours is the greatest sport on the planet.

So now you must decide whether you can get past this latest tough setback and move forward. We know what we are going to do and we damn sure know that we want all of you with us. Let’s get back to work.

APBA Offshore
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Old 09-20-2003, 06:09 PM
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I'm not going to peel my APBA sticker off of the back of my truck window but it just sucks that all of this has to happen.
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Old 09-20-2003, 06:15 PM
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Thank you for the letter, and being in the business of offshore racing - we certainly have seen you time and time again do your best for the sport of offshore racing.

We will see you in Alabama for what is sure to be one of the best races ever.

Anyone interested in taking a test ride or leasing a boat and experiencing the thrill of APBA offshore, feel free to drop us an email at [email protected]. We will be in Orange Beach an entire week before the event.

Chris Reindl
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Old 09-20-2003, 06:29 PM
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"Sometimes one has to take one step backward in order to take two steps foward".
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Old 09-20-2003, 06:41 PM
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I too would like to thank you for the letter. Sometimes you just have to play the hand you are dealt. It is an extremely unfortunate issue, and hopefully lessons will be learned and issues resolved. My wife and I are planning on going to Alabama, if for no other reason, than to try to show support, for legitimate Offshore Racing.
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Old 09-20-2003, 09:39 PM
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Old 09-20-2003, 11:23 PM
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Chris.....boat rides in Alabama!!!! I'll look for ya.
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Old 09-21-2003, 09:29 AM
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Great job Mike, the next generation has all to gain and an awesome heritage to build from. These are success problems not failure problems, your on target. The great secret of the South is out of the bag, Orange Beach and Perdido Key are Paradise on the Gulf Coast.
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Old 09-21-2003, 06:24 PM
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Old 09-21-2003, 07:47 PM
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yada yada yada keep on talking Michael...
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