Water Sports Thriving in the Desert at Tempe Town Lake

Water Sports Thriving in the Desert at Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake in Tempe, Arizona is home to many water sports and has become a landmark for the state, attracting more than 2.4 million people each year, according to the City of Tempe. While many of the visitors are there to enjoy the scenery, a majority are sports enthusiasts. Whether it is a steamy 110 degree day or a brisk, dew-filled morning, athletes can participate in an activity on the lake sure to get their adrenaline flowing.

“The lake is home to tons of special events. It’s actually the second most visited location in all of Arizona after the Grand Canyon,” said Alicia Jerger, a Senior Boating Coordinator for Tempe.

Tempe offers a wide range of water sport classes. People of all ages can learn about rowing, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. These and other workshops are offered year-round, which attract people to this man-made reservoir.

Businesses, such as Tempe Boat Rentals, noticed a significant increase in business with the reopening of the lake. Town Lake has generated $1.5 billion in revenue since its creation, according to the City of Tempe. The lake offers a central location for activities that are, “low impact so it definitely gives athletes another form of exercise” and athletes and amateurs are likely to patronize the surrounding businesses and restaurants, said Kyle Dabney, the regional manager of Tempe Boat Rentals.

In addition to leisure sport activities, approximately 15 competitive teams utilize the lake including rowing, sailing, outrigger and dragon boat teams, Jerger said. Of those teams, rowing is the most popular. The lake was designed with rowers in mind because the waterway is not deep and the lake is usually calm providing ideal conditions for rowers, Jerger said. Also, the city does not allow gas-powered boats to use the lake.

The rowing, or crew teams, consist of members with a wide range of experience from beginners to athletes that have been rowing since the lake opened almost 20 years ago. Some teams even boast former Olympians.

The Tempe Rowers Association hosts two regattas per year, which are boating or yacht competitions, and the city of Tempe hosts a corporate championship regatta where corporate teams compete for a trophy. The real prize for some, however, is bringing colleagues closer together as they strive for a healthier lifestyle.

“There’s a big push for wellness in the corporate world and this [rowing] is a really great way to incorporate fitness. It’s [Town Lake] in your backyard, you can get your paddling in and then you’re home and running your errands an hour later,” Jerger said.

There was ample press coverage regarding the reopening of the lake in May after the old rubber dam system was replaced with a new concrete and steel structure. Individuals, such as Jerger, who depend on the lake for their business, say the closing and reopening of the lake was a great marketing tool because it drew even larger crowds to the lake when it reopened. Town Lake reopened in May and “we had our busiest summer ever,” Jerger said.

Josh Stockam, who noticed the city rowing club one day while he was on a run around Town Lake, decided to sign up for a learn-to-row class. He has been rowing ever since. The club has 50 members and about two-thirds of them participate in regattas. Stockham competes in all local regattas hosted at Town Lake as well as in competitions nationwide.

There are a variety of experience levels on the team. There are first timers as well as former collegiate rowers. All of the participants enjoy the perks of getting a full body workout while establishing new relationships, Stockham said.

In the desert, staying involved in water sports is a great way to stay cool while also staying in shape.

“I’ve been involved in rowing since high school and it’s the only thing that keeps me sane while living in the desert,” said Magill Weber, a coach for the City of Tempe Masters Rowing Club.

Town Lake offers a wide range of events to satisfy every athlete and amateurs’ adrenaline rush. Upcoming events include:

  • Tempe Town Lake Rowing League Championship Regatta – Saturday, Oct. 22
  • Halloween Kayak Event – Friday, Oct. 28
  • Ironman Arizona – Sunday, Nov. 20
  • Holiday Boat Parade – Saturday, Dec. 10

People of all ages and experience levels can enjoy rowing and other water sports at the lake. For more information visit the Tempe Town Lake fall boating schedule.


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