OLDSMAR— For more than 25 years, crowds have gathered every Saturday evening on the bleachers in front of the lake down Burbank Road to watch the Tampa Bay Water Ski Show team careen through the air, glide atop water and put on a choreographed free show.
Ron Prevost and his wife have been coming each week for almost a decade and they know most of the team of more than 100 performers by name now.
“The talent is unmatched,” he said.
But the shows will be put on hiatus after Dec. 1 until the team can find a new home, as the landlord is ending the team's lease.
Team president Clint Gordon said the property the team performed and practiced on is owned by Crown Castle, a communication infrastructure company.
For the first 15 years or so the team practiced and performed on the property without a true lease, but Crown Castle later leased it for $10 a year, Gordon said, and didn’t even insist they pay that. In exchange the team took care of the property and paid its own bills. This summer, they were told the lease would not be renewed.
“Crown Castle proudly provided the Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team use of our property for many years at no cost as a service to the Tampa Bay community,” said Amelia DeJesus, vice president of towers south area at Crown Castle. “We notified them earlier this summer that we are unable to do so moving forward, and wish them the best in the future.”
The company declined to comment further.
The team, which first formed over 40 years ago as the Tampa Bay Ski Bees and once went by George’s Ski and Social Club, has formed a committee to find a new site, Gordon said, but they are finding it harder than they expected.
“It’s very, very hard when there’s not very many locations that fit the bill,” he said.
The body of water must be at least 6 feet deep all around and roughly 15 acres for parking and the public to watch. But many lakes are near homeowners, who aren’t always keen on the idea of a weekly show with music and large crowds of up to more than 200 at times. Social media, Gordon, said has boosted attendance in recent years.
“What we’re finding is that we have to work with a municipality, city, county or something that has public access to allow the public be able to come out and watch the show,” he said.
He hopes they’re able to find a place where they can stay long term.
“Somewhere we can call home,” he said. “We’re looking for a long-term relationship, not just a place to hang our skis for one or two years. We’re looking for a partnership. We were there for 27 years. We’re looking to provide value.”
Gordon started with the team in 2006, when he was fresh out of high school. He later traveled with the team to competitions in 2009 and 2012.
The team participates in competitions internationally and changes the theme of the Oldsmar show each week, designing new costumes and choreography. In 1990, they made the Guiness Book of World Records for largest human pyramid and set another record for a seven-man front flip over a 14-foot-wide jump.
“It’s something the whole family can do,” said Lisa Stephens, who volunteers as publicity chair for the team.
Her husband drives the boat that pulls the skiiers and her two kids ski.
Gordon worries even if they do find a new location, they’ll lose some of their regulars.
Prevost said he and his wife will continue to go.
“That’s number one on Saturday night,” he said. “We can do anything else after. But got to see that water ski show.”
Contact Divya Kumar at [email protected] or follow @divyadivyadivya.