It’s no secret that grumblings over the future of the IJSBA World Finals has spurred no shortage of rumors; and with last year’s attendance being reportedly the lowest on record (230 racers, and 3,500 spectators – according to one source), a torrent of concerns from attendees, vendors and major event sponsors have voiced whether a change of venue has been what the championship needs.
Historically, the first IJSBA World Finals was held in Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1982 and since that time has remained in the remote desert oasis settled alongside the Colorado River – beginning at the Nautical Inn and later moving to the north side of the island’s Crazy Horse RV Park & Resort – drawing in thousands of PWC racers and spectators from across the globe. That is, until as of late.
Earlier this week, a Central Florida event promoter (who asked to remain anonymous) made it known to The Watercraft Journal that the IJSBA’s plans for the future of the World Finals will no longer include Lake Havasu as of 2020. The radical change, expected to occur in two years’ time, is slated to relocate the then-38-year-old event to the Kissimmee Lakefront Park on Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida.
This was revealed through the City of Kissimmee, Florida’s official event calendar found online, marking the week of October 8-14, 2020 as being reserved for the IJSBA World Finals. In response to an email inquiry, Kissimmee Parks & Recreation Event Director, Pamela Halpert wrote, “We were first contacted by the International Jet Sport Boat Association (IJSBA) in November of 2017, inquiring as to the maximum capacity of the Lakefront Park. We assured that the facility could accommodate over 6,500 persons, vendors and parking.”
“This instigated a conversation resulting in the booking of the [Kissimmee Lakefront Park] property for the middle of October, 2020.” Pamela continued. WCJ‘s research shows the park is less than 30 miles from the Orlando International Airport and the Walt Disney World Resort, with considerable accommodations nearby. The park’s Big Toho Marina features a large, newly paved launch ramp, a primary parking lot and a larger field for additional parking directly behind. Equally, newly renovated (and air conditioned) public restrooms, drinking fountains and paved walkways are found throughout the grounds.
Imagery also shows the marina guarded by a breakwall, two fishing piers, and a large jetty (with a decorative faux lighthouse) that we believe could also serve as the staging and starting line, sending racers alongside the boardwalk instead of away from it. “We welcome many larger events to the Lakeside Park, such as the monthly City of Kissimmee Food Truck Rodeo, outdoor concerts, outdoor movie screenings and more,” Pamela added. “Bringing an event like [the IJSBA World Finals] to Kissimmee is very exciting for us.”
Logistically, the move might possibly be the best thing the IJSBA has done in recent years. Flights into Orlando are subsidized by the state’s Board of Tourism, making travel (both domestically and internationally) a fraction of that to Lake Havasu City. Equally, hotels, food, and entertainment are exponentially superior – encouraging racers to bring the whole family along. Lastly, international racers are poised to save thousands by shipping race craft into Florida, where ports can quickly process and transport crates to dealerships and shops, over that of Arizona’s remote town. To us, it’s a win-win.
So could an IJSBA World Finals in Kissimmee, Florida be the future? Besides the city’s event calendar having the schedule reserved for October, 2020, few other details are known. To us, it certainly would seem so, particularly as the relocation would also place a great deal of pressure on Pro Watercross’ feuding World Championships in Naples, only a few short weeks earlier – something which the IJSBA would certainly like to see go away. As we wait for an official announcement and some additional information on the Finals’ move to Florida, we suggest viewing the calendar by clicking HERE.