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Florida finale to cap Pro Watercross season

By By Kate Swanson

World Championship gets TV deal for Sept. 19-27 event in Naples, Fla.


Which would you rather choose: A vacation to Naples, Fla., or great seats at the World Championships of the Pro Watercross Tour? Thanks to the Handler family, that’s one tough decision you won’t have to make this year.

The Pro Watercross World Championship will take place Sept. 19-27 at Sugden Regional Park in Naples, Fla.

Pro Watercross is gaining popularity worldwide, leading the World Championship race to be aired on CBS Sports.

Pro Watercross is gaining popularity worldwide, leading the World Championship race to be aired on CBS Sports.

“Our main objective for the World Championship is to put on a great race,” said Jennifer Handler, one of faces behind Pro Watercross operations. “We have a great staff of people from all over the country who have helped us to become a successful national tour — we are very grateful for the help and support.”

Handler says there’s no bad seat in the house. Sugden Regional Park has a 360-degree view of the race, so all spectators can catch the action.

“We’re very excited about the event,” she added. “We are currently working on a site plan to bring in vendors from all over the world. We have been able to generate a lot of international interest.”

Since 1995, Handler and her family have been working behind the scenes to produce what is now the national Pro Watercross Tour. Her husband AJ handles site logistics and sponsorships, while she applies for all permits and completes necessary paperwork. Recently, their son Nick has also joined the team, attending conventions throughout the year to meet with potential host cities and promote the tour.

“Nick is taking over the operations of the business as he becomes acquainted with all the different aspects. Our daughter Nina and her husband Trevor help us out at some of our East Coast events,” Jennifer said. Nina also has experience as part of the scoring staff.

The tour continues to grow, and Handler says that the family was excited to pick up two new cities in 2015 that were west of the Mississippi.

“The first year (2009), the tour consisted of three tour stops on the East Coast. The tour now consists of seven tour stops that travel throughout the U.S.,” she said. “Originally the tour consisted of just U.S. riders. Over the past few years we’ve gained competitors from all over the world.”

TV deal in place

Over the last two years the national champions in several classes have been from other countries, including Abdullah F Alfadhel from Kuwait in 2013. In addition to gaining international racers, the Pro Watercross Tour will also broadcast nationally on network television. The recently signed deal with CBS Sports Network includes a one-hour show featuring the World Championship airing Sunday, Oct. 18 at 9 p.m. EST.

The Pro Watercross Tour has grown from three stops to seven since its 2009 formation.

The Pro Watercross Tour has grown from three stops to seven since its 2009 formation.

“This will be the first time in nearly 20 years that personal watercraft racing has been aired nationally on a major network,” Handler said. “It is further proof that our events are charged with exciting racing and are appreciated by race fans worldwide.”

This year, Handler says turnout for the events has been encouraging: “This year we have added live web streaming at each of the events during the ‘Pro Show’ where we highlight the best competitors on the fastest machines.”

The top five countries viewing the live streaming include the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan and Italy. Handler says that within the first two weeks of airing, the live feeds gained more than 10,000 views online.

“The live web streaming allows us to reach people who otherwise would know nothing about the sport, the tour, our sponsors and competitors,” she said. “This will hopefully open up new doors in the industry and grow the sport.” 

Handler’s outlook for the future of Pro Watercross remains upbeat: “Overall response has been positive. There will always be naysayers, but the best way around that is to put the quality of our events first; the rest will follow. All in all we are very excited about the change and the future of Watercross.”

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