The first boat race at the lake at the Clark County Fairgrounds will take place this week.
The 24th annual Solar Splash competition — a collegiate solar boat race that highlights student engineering and design — will be held Wednesday through Sunday at the fairgrounds.
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“We’re thrilled they’re here,” Fairgrounds Executive Director Dean Blair said.
The solar boat regatta was held at Dayton’s Eastwood Park last year. The event is known as the world championship of intercollegiate boating, Blair said. The competition includes seven categories, such as sprint, endurance and maneuverability.
The racing will likely occur between Friday and Sunday, Blair said. The event is free and open to the public.
“This is our debut,” Blair said. “We’re very excited about it.”
The fairgrounds will also be hosting a Formula 1 speed boat exhibition at 12:30 p.m. Friday. Chris Fairchild, one of the most decorated drivers on the Formula 1 boating circuit who has won numerous championships, will be driving as part of the event.
Earlier this year, Springfield city commissioners approved a rezoning for the lake at the Clark County Fairgrounds, paving the way for both boat and cross country races.
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The fairgrounds will spend about $88,000 to make upgrades to the lake and the fairgrounds, Blair said, which includes grants from the FirstEnergy Foundation and the Springfield Foundation.
Recent upgrades include a shelter house, a new fire barn and repairs to the bleachers at the grandstand. About 100 trees also were cut down through a donation from Huffman Tree Service, Blair said.
“It’s been quite a project,” he said. “We’re in high hopes that they fall in love with the lake and Springfield and make this their permanent home.”
Phase 1 of the project will cost about $1.3 million, including a parking lot, an entryway, terrace seating, a ramp for boat shows, a boat launch and an announcer’s tower, Blair said. The fairgrounds is looking for corporate sponsorships to pursue the project, he said.
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The free collegiate boat competition this week will include 16 teams and is expected draw hundreds of people, organizers told the Springfield News-Sun in April.
Each team spends about a year building their solar boats, which must comply with size, power and safety specifications. A single person will drive the boats through set courses in different categories, according to the competition’s website.
Cedarville University won the competition last year, taking home the George Ettenheim Memorial World Championship Trophy. The Yellow Jackets finished first in the slalom, endurance and sprint events last year.
For more information, including a schedule of events, log on to solarsplash.com/2017-event/.
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Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about the proposed water events at the Clark County Fairgrounds since the story first broke in the fall of 2016.