For both the Upstate Watercraft Promotions International Jet Sport Boating Association (UWP-IJSBA) National Tour and the Extreme Volleyball Professionals (EVP) Tour, it was a first venture into Nevada. While there was plenty of racing on the waters and competition on the beach volleyball courts, the biggest winner of the day turned out to be the Sparks Marina.
“The venue is fantastic,” UWP President A.J. 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.”
EVP President Ross Balling echoed the sentiments of his counterpart.
“We love it here,” Balling said. “It’s world class, absolutely world class. We’re not the Olympics, but we’re pretty close to it in terms of beach volleyball in the United States. If we add some more courts and some more beautiful sand and get the locals to start playing the sport, I say by year three it’s going to be a world-class event here. This site is something that we want to work on with the city. We’re donating two nets and poles for two volleyball courts, so we hope to put about four courts here next year and continue to build up the event.”
The presidents were not the only ones to give rave reviews of the event’s host.
“Everybody that I talk to gives it thumbs up,” IJSBA tour announcer Mike Young said. “They say that this is the best venue that we’ve been to all season and we’ve been all over. We raced at Racine, Wis. and Racine’s beach was voted No. 51 in the country, so that’s saying something that they like this venue the best. This venue just has everything. They’ve really done a great job.
“What’s cool is I’ve been to the Reno-Sparks area before, but I’ve never seen this venue before. I heard about it and mentioned it to A.J. and after coming out and seeing the venue, it’s absolutely perfect for what we do. It’s kind of like an arena. A lot of the places you can’t watch from all the vantage points. Here, we can have people watching from everywhere. I think you’ll see it grow and as we keep coming here I think more of the lake will be utilized for the course and it will bring the fans closer to the action.”
With the positive fan support and the encouraging evaluations of the event site, competitors are hoping to see more of Sparks in the future.
“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. I live in Arizona so for us it’s only a 10-hour drive whereas all the rest of the tour races are 25-hour or more drives. So this is definitely the most convenient race course.
“Hopefully, we can maybe interest some people in racing. Maybe people will think ‘Hey, I have a jet ski, maybe I can come out and race.’ We just want to make this something that the fans can look forward to us coming back year after year. We want people to wonder ‘When is that jet ski race happening again?’ If we can do that, then our job is done.”
While most of the response was overwhelmingly positive, there were some minor things the athletes had to adjust to with the competition at Sparks.
“The only downside would be the altitude here because we lose about 30 percent of our power. So unfortunately with that, people aren’t seeing really how fast the skis are. They’re still getting a good show though.”
The volleyball players also had a bit of a struggle with the thinner air.
“The altitude is definitely different here,” Tristy Bittikofer said. “The ball is moving different when we’re serving and then when we’re receiving it. I feel short of breath. Normally I’m fine and feel like I’m in really good shape. I’ve never really felt that, so that’s been different. Regardless though, it’s absolutely beautiful here. This isn’t a normal beach volleyball venue, but to look around and see these mountains, it’s amazing.”