PITTSBURGH — Less than two weeks before the 2019 Three Rivers Regatta was scheduled to start, the Regatta's Board of Directors started to realize they would likely have to cancel the annual summer event.
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In emails 11 Investigates obtained, board members appear to have first sounded the alarm on potential problems on Friday, July 26. That's when board Chairman John Bonassi sent an email in all caps calling for an emergency board conference the next day.
While emails showed "challenges" that needed to be overcome as early as July 13, board members did not appear to understand the severity of the issue until two weeks later.
Emails showed frantic plans to try to move the event to the North Shore before it was eventually canceled Tuesday, July 30.
Two hours before the call, board member and Sen. Wayne Fontana emailed about possibly moving the regatta to the North Shore, acknowledging, "There are Pirates games and Heinz Field Family Fest, so I'm not sure if that can work safely."
That Monday, an email exchange between a board member and the marketing agency "Marc USA" showed they had invoiced $10,000 but still had not received any payment. Later that day, emails show the decision was made to cancel the regatta.
In a statement to 11 Investigates, regatta's board said, in part:
"In the final moments leading up to the planned event, we also learned that LionHeart had misrepresented the status of payments to vendors that included the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and entertainers. The blame and liability for this lies solely with LionHeart, and we continue to cooperate with investigators and government officials."
Albert Veverka is the attorney for LionHeart owner Derek Weber, who is now being investigated for the collapse of the event.
"I don't know what their mindset was at the time," Veverka said. "I know right up until the end, I think the records will show, he was planning on having this event, and he was doing the best he could with what he had to work with to put on this event."
Last week, LionHeart filed for bankruptcy, claiming between $500,000 and $1 million in liabilities.
In that statement, the regatta board said its goal is to secure a future for the regatta downtown.
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