Guest Author: Richard Andersen, Seafair President & CEO

Richard Andersen CEO Seafair
Guest Author
Richard Andersen
Seafair President & CEO would like to thank Seafair President & CEO, Richard Andersen, for providing his perspectives on Seafair and the role Unlimited Hydroplane Racing will play in the future.

Richard Andersen

Hydroplane racing is Seattle’s oldest professional sport (yes – it was here before the Seahawks, the Mariners… you name it.) It is one of the pillars Seafair was built on, and our festival just wouldn’t be the same without it.

I’m very excited for Seafair 2017, particularly Seafair Weekend and the Albert Lee Appliance Seafair Cup. Currently, our team is finalizing plans with H1 Unlimited, and we expect to have a full array of the sport’s top drivers competing.

Great Sponsors. Great Teams.

We are so fortunate to have Albert Lee Appliance as a title sponsor year after year, as Albert Lee III’s support allows us to do so much in just three days. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone more dedicated to their community. He is simply a first class human being and clearly has a strong passion and dedication to the sport of hydroplane racing.

Courtesy Rod Mar via Seafair

Rob Graham and HomeStreet Bank are also key players in both the sport and in onsite partnerships at Seafair Weekend. Having these three assets working together prove an unstoppable force in the continuation of hydro racing.

Our Challenge

Anyone familiar with hydroplanes expresses a concern about the aging fan base. I’ve heard it from many people, and yet when you watch the sport and meet the people connected to it, you can clearly see it’s exciting and worthy of fan participation. With that in mind, Seafair’s challenge and our clear goal is to reach new audiences that we haven’t yet connected with, particularly the younger generation.

Rookie Andrew Tate winning the Albert Lee Appliance Seafair Cup last season is a huge plus for us. He’s a talented, vibrant young man with a deep family history in the sport, and he’s the perfect advocate for reaching the younger generation.

Courtesy Seafair

We believe that to truly connect with new audiences, we need to understand what their expectations are and deliver. It’s a formula, and as simple as it sounds, it’s actually quite complex. We’re faced with integrating new ideas into traditional ideas as well as the schedule set for carrying out the races.

So, timing and impact for these new crowds becomes our core challenge.

Focus: Fan Experience

Our focus at Seafair currently is to enhance the overall experience by enhancing guest relations. This is everything from getting to the event, finding great food and beverage selections, receiving highly courteous treatment, and an enhanced entertainment experience such as music and other visual demonstrations we can implement.

What gives me great confidence and hope for Seafair in achieving these outcomes is not only our highly capable management team, but also our 2,000+ volunteers that are all dedicated to making a difference in Seattle. Without our volunteers, Seafair simply would not exist.

I am especially excited that our volunteers will be under the leadership of our new event chair, Kathy McLemore. She has been with Seafair for many years and knows the importance of fan experience.

The Future

Looking down the road for 2018 and beyond, the obvious big draw for Seafair Weekend is the Blue Angels and H1s. We’re fortunate to already have secured the Blue Angels for 2018, and I’m confident the H1s will continue their long-standing tradition with us.

What we are also committed to doing is to continue to improve the areas I spoke on above; adding new entertainment that will enhance the experience and attract more visitors, many being first-time ticket buyers.

Our belief is that once you’ve seen a hydro race, it’s hard not to get excited about it!

Our job is to deliver an amazing guest experience so our fans are not only treated well, but that they witness the roaring hydroplanes and gasp. When you hear those engines you’re drawn to the noise… it’s iconic.

2015 Seafair Photographer Gary Babcock
Courtesy Gary Babcock, 2015 Seafair Photographer

Our challenge, and our main focus, is to get people out and see it. We know once they do they’ll be lifelong fans, and next time they’ll bring their friends.

Richard Andersen
Seafair President & CEO

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5 thoughts on “Guest Author: Richard Andersen, Seafair President & CEO

  • March 3, 2017 at 2:20 PM

    I like the fact you sound appreciative of the hydroplanes who are the centerpiece of Seafair weekends every year but I remain concerned that all the adverts/promotions I see about Seafair only show the Blue Angels and no boats. Please include the unlimiteds in your ads going forward.

  • February 12, 2017 at 3:57 PM

    Seafair can start by not lying about attendance. With every lie they tell about the attendance, which is low compared to when it was a vibrant and free event, I vow to not support Seafair at all, and have not. There is nothing more than laughs to be had to be had from From Seafair estimates of 500k attendance when they show empty shores and a vacant log boom. It is a signal to potential sponsors to STAY AWAY from involvement.

    Big Kudos to Albert Lee for their unwavering support of the event despite the fact that there is very little financial incentive to do so. We do appreciate it greatly!

    One of the biggest problems is that the very poor surrounding communities in the Rainier Valley cannot afford to attend and until Seafair figures out a way to get free passes to these people, support will continue to wain.

    I hope that Kathy McLemore is a great Event Chair. Seafair had some really good music booking for a few years but a change was made and the last few years have been lackluster.

    I’d like to suggest that Seafair seriously consider a $5 daily cover with lost of beer gardens with great views and $5 beers if you want to make it more friendly for the average attendee. Knowing that in advance will start to bring some crowds back. People (like me) that have worked for decades in the entertainment/music industry know that there is more money to be made from concessions than on entry fees. As the late great Bill Graham once said: “Last year I lost $3 million promoting rock n’ roll concerts…but I made $10 million on concessions!”

    Get to work Seafair, change the business model to adjust to the times. I know that in the past you have been a secretive organization that has been resistant to critique, and i hope that has changed. if you want to hire me to help you make money – just ask…

  • February 11, 2017 at 10:13 PM

    Paul Allen: The greatest benefactor out there for N.W. Sports. I would love to see him, or any of the other Northwest guys that have deep pockets step up to help this sport. It has been my experience that the only folks that don’t care about the boats, are the ones that have never seen a race. Without a doubt, the unlimited hydros are the most spectacular racing machines in the world. One of the questions that I have about the races and the schedules is why it is so difficult to secure race sites? Nearly every state in the union has some body of water, close to a fairly large city. It appears that Seattle and Tricities make money. That would be the incentive for other towns to step up and make money too. I don’t know. I’m one of the old generation of fans that don’t want to see the boats go away. Currently, the heats are held on Saturday and Sunday. Maybe one idea would be to change the race schedule so that the Limiteds and the air show ran on Saturday. Maybe run only Unlimiteds on Sunday. Change the length of the course. Run 15 mile heats like back in the old days. Separate the heats by 1/2 hour, then run the next heat. Make the race a speed and endurance event. 90 miles. Make the boats “Unlimited again. No more n1 violations or any of the other silliness like making everybody run the same engine with the same horsepower. Get rid of ridiculous rules that make the fan wait 8 months to find out the winner of a race. I realize that it takes a million and a half dollars for the boats to run an entire season. I honestly don’t have any ideas how that number gets lower, other than realistic prize money and corporate sponsorship. I believe that sponsorship is a hard sell because of the $, but mostly because corporate America knows nothing about the hydros. While I am not a fan of Nascar, (to me the most boring racing) They clearly know how to sell their product. To me, for hydros, the obvious connection is with the marine industries. I know that some of these industries have sponsored boats before, and I know the sponsors want to see a return on the investment. So this goes all the way back to making the races a great fan experience. One way to draw fans is to have the experience be continuous, non-stop action. Throw an intermission in the mix and have the Blue Angels do their thing. Run the heat races with very little down time. The biggest gripe I hear is that you get to watch 5 minutes of heat action and then you wait for 2.5 hours for the next race.
    I love the boats. I want to see the most spectacular form of racing continue. Thanks, Mike Meeks

  • February 10, 2017 at 3:06 PM

    Good article, but for years people have talked about the aging fan base and H1 needs someone that knows how to market the sport. They would need someone from the outside to come in and help the sport focus on getting the younger generation to watch the sport. There are many things that could be said, but the big one is what does the sport have to offer big name ( national sponsors) to come back to the sport. Even though many feel that television is not a viable source of media it is still important for the sport to survive. The last couple of years they have tried reaching the younger audience by using applications for their electronic devices and never went anywhere. The sport needs a sponsor that can help pay for television stations like ESPN to broadcast the events. That would reach a huge demographic audience and maybe bring back some big names to the sport. Also set up hospitality tents for potential sponsors to come in and be entertained. Make the drivers more accessible to sponsors and fans. It’s just not the Thunder that will bring them back, but good old deck to deck racing and consistent calls and stick by them instead of reversing calls months later. The other thing that would help is to have younger broadcasters who know the sport that is appealing to the younger audience ( both male and female). That is some of the things that can be done.

    • February 15, 2017 at 5:14 PM

      One thing I should say and after talking with him on many occasions, get Jerry Schoenith back into the picture, the man has a lot of knowledge and thinks out of the box with ideas that may just work. One thing people need to remember about Jerry he is a promoter and anyone who ran the Roostertail restaurant back in the 60’s and early 70’s and kept it going must know something about promoting and bringing crowds back.


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