Drag boat association moves to OKC

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

by Brian Brus

The Journal Record

The National Drag Boat Association’s new headquarters is now in Oklahoma City near the Oklahoma River where races are already being planned, organization President Mike McAuliffe said.

The office is operated by one person, McAuliffe, although he expects to hire a staff soon. McAuliffe purchased the rights to operate the 50-year-old NDBA just a few months ago, he said.

McAuliffe has been involved in races and river-based special events before as the chairman of the annual Holiday River Parade and head of OKC Motorsports, which has lobbied for a Grand Prix circuit event in Oklahoma City. He invested in his latest position to redefine the NDBA, which has been underappreciated, he said, while attracting more tourism events and an economic boost to the Oklahoma City area.

“The Oklahoma River, America’s best liquid speedway, is just one reason the NDBA now calls Oklahoma City home,” he said. “Race teams also like Oklahoma City’s central location, easy highway access, affordable hotels near the race site and the fact the site is in walking distance to the Bricktown Entertainment District.”

The NDBA is planning only a single race this year, the fifth annual OKC Nationals on June 7-9. A full race series planned for 2014 includes two races in Oklahoma in June and September.

“To put on a complete race series, we’ve got to secure some corporate sponsors,” he said. “And that’s been a problem in the past with the drag boat association. They’ve always just relied on membership dues to get them through each year, and they struggled for it.

“So you’ve got to work a year out in advance to get on corporate budgets. We’re already doing that nationally, locally and regionally, about being sponsors for 2014,” he said.

The recessed Oklahoma River has proven to be a good wind screen for racing in motor-powered boats and rowers. And the dam upstream controls water flow so there is little or no current to challenge the racers. An electronic operations tower sponsored by Chesapeake Energy and stadium-style lighting being installed along the river are also attractive to NDBA events, McAuliffe said.

On that note, the 2013 OKC Nationals is scheduled to feature OG&E-sponsored Friday Night At The Races and expected to attract additional tourism attention, he said.

“There are so many pluses here, that’s why we chose to rebuild the National Drag Boat Association in Oklahoma City,” he said. “It’s a natural fit.”