Chicago boat show motors into town

January 13, 2011 4:16:51 AM PST
Spring and summer have arrived at McCormick Place -- for the next five days.

Boating is a very big business in the Chicago area and adds about a million dollars to our economy each year. The Chicago Boat, RV and Outdoors Show (, which runs January 12-16, is a part of that business just because of its bigness.

"We have over 350 boats here. Close to 200 RV's and the great thing about this show ... unlike the Chicago Auto Show or something like that ... is a selling and buying environment. People buy boats here," Keith Ogulnick, Boat and RV Show manager, said.

That's something that's desperately needed. These have been tough times for boat sellers, but now with the economy growing slowly the boat business is above water again.

"Things are changing. We've seen in the retail environment much really within just the last three months where people are buying boats," said Ogulnick.

There's no doubt that boats are still luxury items and you have to pay top dollar for top of the line. But they say with better prices now sales are up.

"We're hoping to sell ten or twelve but probably sell five or six and we'll sell some used boats off our used boat list," Jim Thorpe, owner, Spring Brook Marina.

Five years ago at the show there were several yachts approaching sixty feet, this year this is the biggest at forty two feet. But it still has a pretty price tag.

"The cost is just at a million dollars," said Thorpe.

Visitors don't have to spend big bucks at the boat show, they can just watch the professional wake boarders who are performing in ice water fresh from our lake. "Pretty cold," said Phil Soven of the water. "It's freezing... I'm from Orlando."

It'll cost $10 to get into the boat show. But you could spend as much as a million on your way out.