Photo Courtesy of LionHeart event group.

For the first time in 41 years, Pittsburgh’s summer will pass without a regatta.

In a reversal that stunned many observers, the board of directors of the Three Rivers Regatta announced today that the annual festival, scheduled to begin in just three days, has been canceled.

“We came to the difficult but necessary conclusion that the board had no choice but to cancel this year’s regatta,” said Three Rivers Regatta’s board solicitor Charles Scholz during a press conference at Rivers Casino.

In his remarks, Scholz laid the blame for the abrupt turnaround on LionHeart Event Group, a local company that has managed the regatta for the past three years.

In addition to failing to procure liability insurance for the event, Scholz said LionHeart “misrepresented the status of the sponsorships and payment to a variety of vendors,” including government agencies, for much of the past year.

“To be clear, the blame for this cancellation rests solely with LionHeart,” said Scholz, who said the Regatta board will be pursuing legal action against the company.

Scholz was joined at the press conference by Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. In his own statement after the conference, Peduto echoed many of the board’s allegations.

“Over the past week, my administration learned that the event management firm for the regatta, LionHeart Event Group, has not paid the City for police services the past two years, and learned the state-owned Point State Park and private vendors had not received payments either,” said a statement from the Mayor’s office. “Efforts to save this year’s regatta were ongoing when it became apparent that LionHeart had not secured the mandatory insurance to hold the event.”

The Mayor added, “I want to thank the board and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald for their efforts to save this decades-old Pittsburgh tradition and will continue to work with them to secure the regatta’s future.”

The festival, which brings thousands of boats and revelers to the Downtown area every year, is the largest inland regatta in the country.

The cancellation comes just over a week after KDKA’s Dave Crawley sued the Regatta and beverage maker Red Bull for fraud and negligence after his participation in a 2017 Regatta stunt.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.