Loss of show ski tournament is hit to local economy
WCLO's Steve Benton reports the high water level of the Rock River is once again causing problems for the Rock Aqua Jays
JANESVILLE All of Janesville’s hotel rooms—all 750—were booked for the second weekend in August.
For the second time in three years, the Rock Aqua Jays have had to relinquish hosting show ski nationals because of flooding on the Rock River. The competition was scheduled for Aug. 13-15 at their home site in Traxler Park.
An alternative location for the tournament has not yet been picked.
The impact of losing the tournament will send waves through the Janesville economy.
Christine Rebout, executive director of the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the national tournament could have generated up to $2.5 million of economic activity in the community, including money spent by tournament participants, families, spectators and vendors at hotels, restaurants, retailers and gas stations.
“It really is an economic impact we will miss,’’ Rebout said.
“We really get pretty good crowds who spend their dollars when they are here. The loss is frustrating and very difficult to recoup. It is such an important event for the Janesville community and a chance to showcase Janesville,’’ Rebout said.
When the club’s board of directors made the decision Sunday night, they knew it would affect the club deeply.
“This tournament is a significant fundraiser for the club,” said Joel Shapiro, club president. “The vast majority of the proceeds are used for site improvements, equipment upgrades and paying for insurance.”
Shapiro said the Aqua Jays hope to minimize losses by getting rebates on deposits and stopping orders for food and clothing.
But not hosting the tournament means “the club won’t have the income to sustain itself in the off season,” he said.
High water at Traxler Park also denies the Aqua Jays a place to practice their big acts, such as pyramids and ballet line, or their entire show in preparation for nationals.
“We’re tentatively set to go to the town of Beloit some time this week, but the water is high down there, too. If the launches are closed and the river is still slow/no wake, we really can’t be out there, either,’’ he said.
More thunderstorms and 1 to 3 inches of rain were forecast through today, Shapiro said.
“All of that storm water will eventually end up in the Rock River,’’ he said.
A alternative location for show ski nationals will be decided by a majority vote of 13 National Show Ski Association’s board of director members, said Gerry Luiting, association president.
The Aqua Jays have hosted national 22 times in 36 years. But Shapiro is concerned that repeated flooding reduces the club’s chances of winning the bid to host future nationals.
“Our organization gives back to the sport more than anyone could possibly imagine. If we don’t have resources to take care of ourselves, we probably won’t have resources to help others,’’ he said.
“It will impact our ability to put on the Independence Day on the Rock and affect our ability to be competitive in the show skiing industry,’’ Shapiro said.
But Bruce McCalmon, 2010 NSSA national tournament chairman, said he’s confident repeated flooding would not hurt the local club’s ability to win the national bid.
“They have a fine site, a wonderful team and everybody respects the work the Aqua Jays do to host nationals.’’