So you want to set up a competition water ski club. Where do you start? What do you need to do first? Should you get help or set the club up by yourself? I was involved with three private ski clubs before I took the plunge myself and decided to set up a competition ski club on my own. Below are some tips if you’re up for the challenge!
What are the advantages of setting up a ski club alone? From my past experiences, many ski clubs have “too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.” Sometimes it’s much easier to make final decisions on how the ski club will be run without implementing a democratic process. This doesn’t mean to disregard ski club member’s opinions and their previous ski club experience, but I find that it is much easier to leave the final decision making process up to the King, or the Ski Club President. No voting, no parliamentary procedures, and no quorum needed to set and implement ski club rules and how the club will be run. It’s a dirty job, and there may be many personality conflicts that arise, but if ski club members realize that the Club President has the final word on ALL issues, there will be fewer conflicts that arise each ski season. It is a lot more work for the President to be the final authority on all matters, but great leadership from a single source will produce a better ski club in the end.
I found my club site by using a detailed city map. I didn’t want to drive too far from my home to my ski site, so I bought a map and circled every small lake that was within 35 miles from my house that was at least 1,800 feet long, highlighting those that were 2,200 feet, so I could look at the longer lakes first. Other great research tools you can use to find well hidden small lakes are to go online and use
Google Earth™, or stop by your local General Aviation airport and buy a VFR Sectional Chart.
The best time to inspect potential lake sites is during the winter. Less vegetation, less active hornet’s nests, and it’s much easier to catch a glimpse of the water from the roadway. If the land looks private, look for the owner’s home and ask permission to take a look at the lake. If you are having a hard time finding the owner, go to your local City Hall and look up the public record to determine the property/lake owner.
If there are homes around the lake already, I can almost guarantee you have run into a dead end as many home owner covenants will not even consider a non-homeowner access to “their” lake, much less allow you to operate a competition ski boat on their “small” pond! Your best bet is to find a lake that is privately owned by an individual or a business in a rural or industrial area where the lake isn’t that important to the owner.
Be sure to set the ski club up as a corporation with you as the President, and the only person listed on the Board of Directors. An S-Corporation has many additional benefits over a Limited Liability Corporation as well. Have an attorney set up the necessary corporate paperwork and submit it to your Secretary of State. The cost of this should be less than $500. In addition, you need to apply for a Business License.
The business should be set up as a sports club or something similar. Also, a commercial bank account must be set up to handle all funds submitted to the ski club. A Federal Tax Identification Number will be assigned to the ski club and it will be required to set up the bank account. Finally, a Waiver of Liability should be signed by all ski club members as well as ski guests prior to any activities on the lake.
All of this official paperwork will ensure that you assume no personal liability if something should go wrong at the ski club.
Ski Club Fees
Club membership fees, to include club boat fees if you decide to have a club boat on site, should be calculated after you come to an agreement on the price to lease the lake. From my personal experiences, I would consider nothing less than a five-year lease, but the longer the term, the easier it will be to break even on your property improvements you will have to implement.
Some improvements may include costs associated with developing a separate gravel driveway to the lake as well as a small parking lot for your club members, installing a boat ramp, building a dock, and if you intend on having a club boat on site, purchasing a portable boat lift will make things much easier for everyone as well as entice more skiers to join your club.
Plan your membership fees in order to generate enough revenue to cover the costs of the initial improvements over the term of the lease. Your worse case scenario should be to break even at the end of the lake lease term and your best case goal should be to walk away at the end of the lease with enough money to start another ski club at a different site.
After your initial improvements are completed, you can assume annual operating costs will be approximately $5,000 per year. This will cover the cost of annual slalom course materials, tents and picnic tables, monthly portable toilet fees, sand to develop and maintain a small beach for the kids, and small projects such as ski racks, running order boards, etc.
If you plan to run a club boat, keep these funds separate and maintain each account independently to ensure monthly boat payments and boat maintenance costs are not confused with general membership fees. A fairly new competition ski boat will cost the club $7,500 per year, which includes the monthly payment ($500/month), annual club boat insurance ($650/year) and incidental maintenance cost. Your goal should be to have the club boat paid for by the end of the lake lease term.
$10,000 Annual Lake Lease Fee.
$3,000 Annual Re-Imbursement Amount. ($15,000 Initial Improvement Costs/5 years)
$5,000 Annual Operating Cost.
$18,000 Annual Club Debts divided by 15 skiers = $1,200 per year per skier.
$7,500 Annual Club Boat Cost divided by 10 skiers = $750 per year.
$1,950 Total Membership Fee with access to the Club Boat
Specific reasons for lake lease termination must be listed in the agreement in order to prevent the lake owner from terminating the lease early and preventing the ski club from paying its existing debt. This clause should force the lake owner to refund the ski club for any outstanding initial improvement debt for early termination of the lease. Also, some type of clause in regards to the club boat should be included in the agreement in case of early lease termination so the ski club isn’t left with a large loan balance after being removed from the lake.
All ski club assets should be owned by the club and listed in the corporate minutes of the ski club business. This should include the club boat, the boatlift, ski jumps, docks, and any other ski club equipment down to the ski club tow rope in order to avoid any liability issues that may arise while the ski club is an active, operating business.
Word of mouth at tournaments and among local competition water skiers is the best advertising you can have. In addition, setting up a ski club website and listing your club with U.S.A. Water Ski is an easy way to market your club and get more members.
Find a club site.
Install a boat ramp, parking lot, club boat storage tent, and adjust the lake level.
Put in a floating dock and clear some land.
Put in a club boatlift and some tents for shade.
Expand the parking lot for more boat storage and parking. Add in a beach for the kids.
Ski club up and running!!
Enjoy for years to come!!
George Obser is the
founder of WaterSki
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