The clock was running out, but Ross Wallach took his last shot and made it.

Long Beach officials told him Monday that he would get a permit to conduct the 2019 Sprint Nationals speedboat races Aug. 17 and 18 at Marine Stadium. Wallach immediately went into high gear, notifying everyone from race teams to vendors that the event was a go.

"I just heaved a sigh of relief," Wallach said Monday. "Now I have to get done what normally takes eight weeks in 10 days. But I'm just  happy that they approved the permit."

Tasha Day, manager of Special Events and Filming, said Monday the city had received the required $10 million liability insurance certificate, and expected to issue the event permit by Thursday.

That means between 13 and 15 classes of speed boats will compete Aug. 17 and 18 for national championships in their class. It also means two days of roaring boats racing in circles in a stadium usually reserved for rowing competitions and occasional ski boats.

It has taken nearly two months of wrangling and scrambling to get to this point, Wallach said. He has been the organizer and promoter of the Sprint Nationals for the last 20 years as president of the Southern California Speedboat Club (SCSC).

The insurance required to run the two-day Sprint Nationals more than doubled this year, The city also imposed more stringent security and safety requirements. A boat driver, Gregory Paul Duff, died last year two weeks after a boat hit him during the race, although Day and the city's fire marshal said that the fatality was not directly related to the additional insurance and safety requirements.

As is the case with every major event in the city, managers from the Fire Department and other impacted departments conducted a review after last year's races. That review was what prompted the added permit requirements.

Day and others say the new rules were sent to Wallach in November (a statement he denies), and after the conditions were not met, a permit denial was issued in May. The dispute went public in June.

Wallach, Day and city Fire Marshal Matthew Gruneisen went back and forth with letters and emails. At one point, Wallach said he was considering taking legal action against the city, while city officials repeatedly said the safety standards had to be met before a permit could be issued.

In the last two weeks, the frequency of correspondence increased, with Wallach working with Day to submit a complete permit application.

"I've blown the budget by about 40 percent up," Wallach said. "I'm just relying on donations, sponsors, etc. The insurance alone was three, three and a half times more.

"I'm just grateful that we're able to continue, to keep the tradition alive. People love this venue. (These races) are part of Long Beach. Just like the Grand Prix and the Catalina Ski Races, it is part of what Long Beach is."

Wallach said no one has dropped out of the event, and he expects 70 to 80 boats to come to town to compete. There will be a full schedule both Saturday and Sunday as National Champions are crowned.

"The beer garden is back, and we'll have plenty of food vendors," Wallach said. "It's too late to offer tickets online, so we'll sell tickets at the gate… We expect a capacity crowd both days."

Tickets will be $20 for adults, $10 for children (younger than 5 free), with military personnel and veterans admitted free. Parking onsite will cost $20.

For more information about the 2019 ARP Long Beach Sprint Nationals — The Greg Duff & Phil Bergeron Memorial Race Presented by Nick Rose Insurance, go to

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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