The World Record attempt will be the second in less than a year taking place at the marina after October’s try at '24 consecutive hours of wakesurfing.' For City of Sparks Special Events Director Francine Burge the announcement means more exposure for the Sparks Marina and a continued strengthening of the relationship between the city and the UWP..
“The first year we worked with AJ (Handler, UWP President), we realized this type of event could really grow and we could get more events like this,” Burge said Thursday. “It has been great working with them and after that first year they have gotten much more comfortable running things on their own. They have made their own local connections and I think those will only get stronger as they continue to return to Sparks.”
Burge and other Parks and Recreation employees were excited to see the UWP’s end-of-year video update, which was filled with jet ski and watercraft riders tearing up the water at the marina.
“We look beautiful in those shots,” Burge said. “For some people viewing the video that may be the first time they have ever seen Sparks. You see the trees and the mountains in the distance and those videos help us market the town in a big way.”
Burge said the marina hosts an average of 1,000 people per day, depending on the season, and has become a premier destination for locals to run or walk their dogs and also holding fundraising efforts. Visitors have told Burge and other city staff members that the marina is one of their favorite destinations, which leads Burge to wonder why some locals refuse to enjoy it.
“There is definitely a disconnect with some of the residents here and it is very frustrating,” Burge said. “When I am out around town and talking about the marina I hear some discouraging comments. When you consider the millions of gallons being pumped into the marina through the natural aquifer, it is as clean as it gets.”
When it comes to special events, Burge said the marina was never intended to have power boats on, it which forces any event producer to clear several permits with the city and environmental controllers in order to put on an event.
“I think the marina is really becoming a hot venue right now and the biggest reason is because it is the only one of its kind,” she said. “We really do protect that water and the people who come here for events have a big responsibility when it comes to adhering to strict standards.
“Event producers understand that it might be more strict than other venues, but they continue to request it and come here because they really do love it.”
Handler was quoted in 2012 during the inaugural US Open of Watercross at the Sparks Marina, saying he was pleased with the crowd attendance for a first-year event.
“The venue is fantastic,” Handler said. “You guys have a great place here. I can’t say enough about this place. It’s very wonderful. I think the turnout so far is fantastic too. For the first time in a new venue, you have to take little steps. You can’t go full bore. It’s a working relationship. This is a great start though.”
That same weekend in 2012 a competitive rider was visiting the marina for the first time and was hopeful for a return to the venue.
“Coming to Sparks as a new venue for the UWP tour is great,” said Chris MacClugage, 17-time world champion in the sport of watercraft racing. “It’s the first one A.J. has put on the west coast and obviously it’s a good turnout so far. I’m looking forward to coming back here.”
The MyWake Global Challenge visited the marina in October and Director of Operations for the event, Chris Bischoff, said he plans to return the wakeboarding and wakesurfing event to the marina as many years as possible. He said the banks of the marina offered perfect viewing opportunities for the crowd in a way other venues could not offer.
“We have always had an amazing relationship with Sparks,” Bischoff said. “We love it. We could not wait to get back here this year. Tigé fell in love with the venue, and we knew it was a great venue, so we are just excited to be back.”
Burge said having event producers and locals become animated when speaking about the marina helps her realize that while not everyone feels the same way about the marina, many do see it as a jewel.
“I think (the announcement of the World Record attempt) says that this is a top-notch venue and that the marina is one of the best venues around our region,” Burge said. “Even with the best venue though you need the best staff because without our staff some producers might not want to come back. We have an amazing support crew for events and they really make it easy and nice to work with visiting producers.”