Bay City bar hopes return of Formula One Powerboat racing brings in thirsty customers

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BAY CITY (WJRT) (07/10/2019) - In just two days, the familiar roar of Formula One Powerboats will once again fill the air in Bay City.

"Rockin' on the River" returns after a one-year hiatus with a new name.

A Bay City bar hopes the return of race fans will translate into a boost in sales over the weekend. At Rathskeller Food and Spirits, thirsty patrons have kept bartender Philip Horen on top of his game on race weekends in the past:

"We're really packed, we're really packed on the race weekend," Horen said.

After three decades, the races were cancelled in 2018, due to a lack of sponsorship dollars to cover the entire event. Organizers decided to take a step back, and take a year off.

"You see the numbers actually go down a little bit, it's not as much foot traffic down here," said Horen.

On Friday afternoon, "Rockin' on the River" returns to Bay City under new sponsorship.

Horen says they're looking forward to the visitors they hope the event will attract over the weekend.

"Anything, that kind of gets the community together, is a good thing," he noted.

As for staffing levels throughout the event?

"All hands on deck this weekend," Horen said. "We're ready."

Beginning Friday afternoon, a large area in Veterans Memorial Park will be converted into a pit area for the competitors.

"We're going to have teams all over the west side here," said Tim Seebold with NGK Formula One Powerboat Championship.

Due to high water levels, fans are encouraged to watch the races on the east side of the river. There will be limited viewing on the west side of the river in Liberty Harbor.

Seebold said this year there are at least 60 boats competing, 24 of which are Formula One Powerboats -- about double the number they had in 2017.

"All the local businesses, hotels, restaurants, you name it," he said. "All the teams are here and they're here to help the people that help them, which is bring them to town."

With the crowds shifting to the east side for viewing, Horen doesn't know how foot traffic will be impacted. But he says in years past the boats have brought them plenty of business:

"We get a lot of the actual drivers coming here to our restaurant to eat and dine," Horen said.

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