PENNSAUKEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The largest collegiate rowing competition in the country was held in New Jersey this weekend for the first time.
The 84th Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta brought thousands of athletes, coaches, and spectators to the Cooper River in Pennsauken, New Jersey, for the two-day event.
The event has been in Philadelphia every year since 1953, however, the race needed a new home this year because of dredging on the Schuylkill River.
"It means a great deal to be able to be so welcomed and to be in such a picturesque, straight, 2,000-meter race course," said Jim Hanna, the president of the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee.
"We want to have a fair race course, the same way a basketball coach would say 'I don't want to send my kids on a court that has warped boards,'" Hanna added.
The change of venue was a shock to some who follow the sport.
"We're all a little sad as Philadelphia residents and longtime fans of the Dad Vail Regatta, but the Cooper has done an amazing job," said Joe Wentzell, whose son is on the Temple University Men's Crew Team.
Some athletes, however, said they like this new course.
"This is a lot more open. Back in Philly, there's a lot of bridges, so this is just a very different atmosphere, rowing through everything and around," said Gabriella Bifulco, a junior on the Iona Women's Rowing Team.
Camden County reveled in the change, welcoming 30,000 athletes, coaches, and spectators to the event which featured food and entertainment along with competition.
"It means that every restaurant is filled, every hotel is booked, and all the stores are packed, and the economic impact has been enormous," said Camden County Commissioner Jeff Nash.
Athletes said they're excited to participate in such a historic event.
"It would have to be the number of schools that do attend and the intensity of each school and how well their programs are," said Bifulco.
Race officials said they plan to decide by June whether the regatta will return to Philadelphia in 2024 or once again be held in Pennsauken.