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Aqua Jays win bid to host first World Water Ski Show tournament

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
September 1, 2011
— Some exciting news made a big splash in Rock County early this week.

On Monday, Joel Shapiro, president of the Rock Aqua Jays, learned the water ski club had been picked to host the International Water Ski and Wakeboard Federation’s first-ever world water ski show tournament.


The two-day event will be held Sept. 15-16, 2012, on the Rock River in Traxler Park, Shapiro said. He also noted the news was kept quiet until event dates were made official.


“Everybody is really excited,” he said. “This is taking the sport of show water skiing to the next level. It’s one thing to host a national competition, but a whole other thing to have a world competition and be able to crown somebody world champion.”


Christine Rebout, executive director of the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, also was thrilled about the news.


“It’s very exciting and a wonderful opportunity to showcase Janesville to an international crowd,” she said. “It’s something we don’t very often get the opportunity to do.’’


Rebout said it will take a tremendous amount of work to not only host the tournament but to do it well.


“A long stay—five or six nights for most attendees—like this will really push our infrastructure,” she said. “(We’ll) find out how well we can host a large group over a long period.”


Rebout noted the Janesville area is equipped with sufficient accommodations to host the international delegations.


“We do have hotels rooms for everybody, plus places to eat and shop,’’ she said.


The number of people expected to attend and participate in the world tournament likely will mimic the annual show ski national tournament.


Nationals tend to provide a local economic impact of a couple million dollars, Rebout said. Those coming for the world event, however, likely will be in town twice as long—providing ample time to spend money.


“So we know this will bring us a $4 million economic boost,’’ Rebout said.


The Aqua Jays submitted a bid in August to host the world event, Shapiro said. He said he is aware of only one other club—the Aqua Skiers from Wisconsin Rapids—in the U.S. and several other countries that did the same.


Shapiro believes Janesville is the perfect place for the international event.


“Janesville is truly one of the best, if not the best water ski show site in the world,’’ he said, noting the water conditions near Traxler Park are usually calm and traffic volume tends to be low.


Shapiro also said the Aqua Jays have hosted the national tournament more often than any other show ski club in the country, and the club continues to invest in improvements at its performance site.


According to USA Water Ski’s website, the world tournament will feature an all-star show ski team from the United States as well as teams from Belgium, China and Australia. Teams from Canada, France and Germany also have been invited.


Shapiro said hosting the tournament is an opportunity to showcase the city to international guests and dignitaries in the water ski world.


“It’s not all about show skiing. There’s a cultural aspect to this, too,’’ he said.


The Aqua Jays have traveled to the People’s Republic of China five times, the United Arab Emirates once, Japan and other locations in the Middle East.


“Now we have an opportunity to bring in international competitors and people from the show skiing world and show them what we’re all about,” Shapiro said. “It’s our turn to give back for allowing us and others in the show skiing the opportunity to travel to other countries.”



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