By David Campbell, The Madison Courier ~ Photos by Jeremy Sage, WKM News
The Madison Regatta turned a profit in excess of $100,000 for this past year and used that windfall to pay off nearly half of its considerable debt, race officials announced on Wednesday.
The annual hydroplane race and the inaugural Roostertail Music Festival sold a combined 28,000 wristbands over Fourth of July weekend, and along with sponsorships, resulted in a profit of just over $112,000. From that amount, the Regatta paid off debts totaling $62,368, some of which dated back to the 2013 race.
The Regatta still faces a debt of $66,732, but with nearly $50,000 still in the bank for next year, officials were understandably excited at the news.
“It feels really good to stand up here and tell you that our event was paid for and that we still have $50,000 in the bank,” Madison Regatta President Matt True told the members assembled at the Boneyard Grill for their first monthly meeting since the race. “We were able to cut off half of our debt and hopefully with another year like this one, we’ll be completely out of debt.”
The Regatta had racked up debt at a considerable rate over the past decade, much of it as a result of poor weather that hurt gate receipts. Water conditions canceled the 2013 race and virtually all of the 2015 race. In between, the race was beset by record heat.
The Regatta entered 2018 carrying a debt of $129,000, over 40 percent of which was to local businesses. Officials were able to erase that debt, a total of $52,368, with this year’s income.
The Regatta also owed H1 Unlimited $30,000 dating back to the 2014 race which H1 allowed the Regatta to pay off in three yearly installments of $10,000, the first of which was paid this year.
Along with the remaining $20,000 owed to H1, the Regatta still owes $46,732 on a line of credit taken out on the Miss Madison boat shop on Milton Street to help pay debts related to the 2013 canceled event. The Regatta owns the shop that houses the eight-time National Champions and has allowed the team to use it free of charge since the 1970s.
“We made a real effort to get rid of this debt and it’s working,” Regatta Vice President Curtis Chatham said. “This really gives us an advantage when it comes to securing sponsors and dealing with vendors because now we can show that the Madison Regatta pays its debts. This is the best news that we could possibly have given.”
Paying off the debt and rebuilding its relationship within the community has been the top priority for the “new” Regatta organization, which has seen considerable turnover in leadership and focus over the past two years. Three of the top four officers — as well as two board members — are in their first full years as Regatta members.
So far, the new approach appears to be working.
“We’re putting things in place. It’s very important that we repair those relationships that we have had,” True said. “It’s awesome to be saying that we’ve paid off $62,000 in debt. We don’t owe anything from those past races. 2018 is paid off, 2017 is paid off and all the way back to 2014. It’s a good feeling.”
Much of the success can be attributed to the new Roostertail Music Festival, a two-day event held at Bicentennial Park which was headlined by the Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band on Friday and the Turnpike Troubadours on Saturday. Chatham said that a breakdown of sales between the racing and music will not be available until next month at the earliest, but he did say that there were nearly 8,000 paying customers in the Park on both nights of the music festival and that race wristbands sold out on Sunday forcing volunteers to use other bands for admission.
“We had a great year and it all starts with you,” True told the members. “None of this happens without all of the hard work of everybody in this room.”
The stronger wristband sales also trickled down to a number of local organizations who help staff gates during race weekend. Chatham said $21,000 was disbursed to those organizations this year, an amount that was the “biggest in a long time.”