Tulsa boat show runs through Sunday at QuikTrip Center
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
1/30/13 at 8:01 AM
Ugly John's Custom Boats president John Mullen couldn't be happier after the first two days of the Tulsa Boat, Sport & Travel Show.
In the first few hours, he said, he sold more than $3.5 million worth of boats, including four 40-plus-foot cruisers.
"It would be really good news if the luxury end of the market came back," Mullen said Tuesday. "So far, things are looking very good."
One of those boats was a $1.6 million, 55-foot model destined for Grand Lake. The watercraft was shipped from France and sold Monday during VIP Night.
The 57th annual show, which started Monday night and runs through Sunday, is using all 11 acres of the QuikTrip Center at Expo Square.
The display floor is covered with watercraft of all varieties, from ski boats and fishing boats to pontoons and luxury cruisers. Dozens of equipment exhibitors also are attending, as are a handful of RV dealers - all trying to stir up interest in their merchandise before the outdoor season starts.
Dealers such as Mullen use the event to get prospective boat buyers excited for the upcoming season after being stuck indoors for the winter. They expect to sell hundreds of models during the show, where they are known to take a percentage off the sticker price. After all, nearly every major boat dealer within 75 miles is at the show competing for dollars.
The show expects to draw more than 60,000 people this year as the boat industry continues to rebound from the recession.
The 500,000-square-foot floor of the QuikTrip Center makes the show one of the largest of its kind in the nation, said Larry Stockhausen, an organizer of the Tulsa event as well as similar shows across the country.
Arrowhead Boat Sales owner Joe Harwood said pontoon boats continue to be the hottest growth segment in the industry.
"It's really led by the baby boomers retiring," he said. "Pontoons are versatile and really easy to get in and out of."
Manufacturers are also adding high-end features to pontoon boats and more impressive designs, overcoming the utilitarian tradition. New models have fiberglass stylings, improved sound systems and increased speeds for skiing, wake-boarding and dragging tubes.
Pontoon boats are cheaper than many watercraft, too, starting at around $10,000.
Meanwhile, next month's Bassmaster Classic tournament at Grand Lake is sparking interest among fishing boat enthusiasts, said Stan Jones, manager of Nichols Marine.
"People who are into their bass fishing boats spare no expense," Jones said. "This is their relaxation, their hobby. Even the recession didn't hurt our sales. They kept coming out."
Among the innovations on fishing boats are wider beams, more electronics and even better paint. The newest models have paint styles more consistent with cars and trucks, so they can match whatever they're being towed by, Jones said.
"It doesn't have to be the sparkly paint anymore," he said.
RV dealers said the boat show is now a bit different since two annual RV shows in Tulsa have been consolidated into one bigger event in July. But those attending are determined to market their product through Sunday.
"We are anticipating to sell about 100 units this week," said Stephanie Sobkowiak of Dave's Claremore RV.
She said sales have been hot for the dealership this month.
"People really came out in the past few weeks," she said. "We hope it will be a good sign for the rest of the year."
Tulsa Boat, Sport & Travel Show
QuikTrip Center at Expo Square
Regular admission: $10; children 12 and under free with adult
Wednesday-Friday: noon to 9 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Original Print Headline: Tulsa Boat Show makes big splash at Expo Square
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
The Tulsa Boat, Sport & Travel Show in the QuikTrip Center at Expo Square is one of the largest of its kind in the nation. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World