|The Tale of Two Cities|
Part 3: The whole sport has been in decline ever since.
By Elizabeth A. Ginns — June 2003
In some ways Aronow's murder marked the end for 188th. Afterwards, the glamour of the high-performance world was tainted, and some of Aronow's companies--most notably USA Racing Team--fell on hard times. Today only two boatbuilders remain, albeit temporarily, on the street. Cigarette is moving to an impressive 95,000-square-foot facility in Hialeah Gardens, Florida, in June, and Magnum reportedly also plans to leave the area within the next year.
Lipschutz says, "It [Thunderboat Row] kind of had to go. The area wasn't kept very nice, the new [condo] residents didn't want to look out their balconies and see workers grinding fiberglass and hear loud engines from Cigarette testing boats at 7 a.m. Now there are no-wake zones, manatee zones, and noise regulations. The whole sport has been in decline ever since." Alan Brown, a.k.a. Brownie, who has more than 51 years' experience in the boating industry and who was a fixture on Thunderboat Row in its heyday, equates building condos on the former powerboat capital with building a house on Native American burial grounds.
However, others, like Michael Aronow, are more positive about the transformation. "In a way, the change is good," he says. "It's valuable land, and the people who own that land are making a lot of money off it, so anyone who bought the land made out like a bandit."
The sport of offshore racing has changed, too. Where in Aronow's time a typical contest might run from Miami to the Bahamas and back through the sometimes violent Gulf Stream, well out of sight of land and with all but a few spectators, today's races are shorter, closer to shore, designed from the ground up to be spectator-friendly, and in many cases televised. In short, Aronow wouldn't recognize the boat companies he founded, the street he developed, or the sport he popularized.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.