Aqua Jays create economic wave
Janesville's Rock Aqua Jays water ski team has been performing on the Rock River for 50 years.
JANESVILLE The Rock Aqua Jays make waves that ripple far beyond the banks of the Rock River.
Each year, the club’s weekly performances and the tournaments it hosts spark spending in the community that runs into the millions of dollars.
In fact, the 2011 Division 1 National Water Ski Show Tournament is expected to pump more than $2 million into the community as 14 teams descend on Janesville.
Most teams bring an average of 125 members. Some bring as many as 160.
Excluding the host Aqua Jays and fans, that’s often more than 1,600 team members who eat, sleep and shop in Janesville for a weekend.
“It’s a big, big deal,” said Christine Rebout, executive director of the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We estimate that attendance for the entire event will be about 50,000.”
Rebout said that all of the city’s 750 hotel rooms will be booked for this coming weekend.
It will be the 23rd time the Aqua Jays have hosted the national tournament. In total, that’s nearly $50 million to the local economy for that event alone.
The community also gets an economic boost when the Aqua Jays host smaller tournaments, as the group did in June with the 2011 Mercury Marine Open Water Ski Show Tournament.
“We really do like the smaller events, too,” Rebout said. “Sure, we like to fill all 750 rooms, but when we do that, it bumps other travelers.
“The old adage that once you’re filled, you’re filled is true.”
The Aqua Jays’ weekly performances also generate economic activity, Rebout said.
“I can speak to that as someone with a young family,” she said. “Just getting people ready and out the door for a ski show usually means we’ll try to do a couple of other things, and, if not dinner, certainly ice cream or something else.”
Rebout said Aqua Jays’ shows are a big draw for visiting motorcoaches.
“Motorcoaches love the Aqua Jays,” she said. “It’s a free show, but they usually make a nice donation, and the Aqua Jays treat them very well. They often do a picnic in the park before the show.”
“And we love motorcoaches,” said Joel Shapiro, the ski club’s president. “The CVB does a great job of putting together packages of activities for them to do and see and includes us.
“We get excited for them to see our show because for many of them it’s the first of a kind, and they are very generous.”
Shapiro and Rebout said the two organizations have an outstanding relationship and always are working to promote Janesville.
The two are putting together a bid for Janesville to host the first-ever World Ski Show Tournament next year.
Such an event could bring teams to Janesville from six or seven countries, Shapiro said.
Rebout said the Aqua Jays’ success in hosting the national event so many times sets the table and makes it easier to bid for even bigger events.
“We’ve made an awful lot of improvements to our site, especially since the 2008 floods,” Shapiro said. “A lot of that money comes from contributions from sponsors and people coming to the shows.
“Everything contributes to our budget and increases the amount we can reinvest in the site, which is owned by the citizens of Janesville. If, for some reason, we folded, we can’t take it with us. Those are improvements to a city park for the benefit of the community.
“There’s no question, we have one of the very best ski show sites in the world.”