Dad Vail Regatta will move from city For at least a year, the annual rowing event will be held in North Jersey.

Posted: November 18, 2009

After 56 years of racing on the Schuylkill, the Dad Vail Regatta, a storied springtime staple in Philadelphia and the largest collegiate rowing event in the country, is moving to North Jersey, for a year at least.

That switch, prompted primarily by economics, could leave some area schools on the outside looking in when it comes to participating next year on the Navesink River in Rumson.

Jim Hanna, Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee president, announced the new venue, about 90 miles northeast of Philadelphia, in a statement yesterday after a meeting with city officials. The annual event will continue to be headquartered in Philadelphia, he said.

He said representatives from Rumson had made "a very compelling proposal to host the event in 2010."

"Their support will actually allow us to avoid large increases in registration fees to participating crews while continuing to benefit the Philadelphia community rowing programs," Hanna said.

Jack Galloway, regatta committee chairman, cited a number of economic factors behind the move, including the escalating cost of city services such as police and trash service and a 60 percent decrease in corporate sponsorships.

"Initially, we thought we might be able to squeeze in the 2010 regatta [in Philadelphia]," Galloway said, "but if we had the same result with corporate sponsorships, we would be faced with the inability to have a 2011. We're a nonprofit organization, and we can't run a deficit budget."

Galloway said Rumson officials had secured $250,000 in corporate sponsorships to host the regatta, which can cost up to $500,000 a year.

Since 1953, the regatta has been held on the Schuylkill, along Kelly Drive, on the weekend of the second Saturday in May. Last year, it drew 122 collegiate rowing teams and 3,300 participants. The event began in Philadelphia in 1934 before moving to various locales over the next 18 years.

"There's a strong tie to Philadelphia, and that's why I think they're keeping the headquarters here," said Harry Stinger, Dad Vail's longtime spokesman.

Luke Butler, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter, said city officials "weren't given the chance to compete and to make our case. . . . They came to this meeting with their minds already made up, with a check in their pocket. We're disappointed it's not going to be here, and we'll work hard to get it back in 2011."

Meanwhile, the head coach of the St. Joseph's University women's team said the group might pass on the regatta next year because of costs.

"It's a financial hardship for us, so we're not sure we're going to be able to go this year," said the coach, Gerry Quinlan.

Quinlan estimated that with a two-night hotel stay and travel expenses, among other things, the event could cost the school about $15,000. Since a team budget already has been created for the 2009-10 campaign, some shuffling would need to be done, he said.

That news dampened the spirits of student-athletes such as Colleen Greway, a 21-year-old senior and No. 7 seat for the Hawks' formidable varsity eight.

"We placed third in last year's final and, looking to get back on top, were pointing toward the Dad Vail," Greway said. "Now, it's all up in the air. We really don't know if we're going to be able to go or not."

Greway, of Haddon Township in South Jersey, said one of the reasons she chose St. Joseph's for college was its regular participation - and overall competitiveness - in the Dad Vail.

"It's definitely a major disappointment that it's leaving the city," she said. "Coming from a Philadelphia-based school, we took pride that the event was held here. Now, that's gone."

Purdue University men's coach Dave Kucik said the school's men's and women's squads planned to compete in the 2010 regatta but, moving forward, might have to reconsider. Purdue has club teams, not an intercollegiate program.

"Our kids pay to play," Kucik said. "They're paying out of their pockets to row. Because of that, I feel a responsibility to see that they're using their money in the best way possible. Because it's a 788-mile trip for us, about an hour and a half longer than it takes to get to Philly, it could end up costing us $4,000 or $5,000 more."

Kucik, whose Boilermakers won eight-man varsity heavyweight titles in 2007 and 2008, and the Schuylkill share a history. His first Dad Vail appearance was in 1969, as a freshman at Marietta College in Ohio.

"I have a love for the course, the venue, the people," he said. "In Rumson, I'm not sure there's going to be the same atmosphere or sense of competition."

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019 or robrien@phillynews.com.

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