LAKE HAVASU CITY, Az -- When spring break comes to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., in March and April, there will be drinking, subwoofers blaring loud music, and scantily-clad college students -- male and female -- ready to party hearty. What do city officials, restaurateurs and hoteliers in this town of 55,000 say about all this?
For as far back as the early 1970s, this lakeside western Arizona oasis, home to the iconic London Bridge, has hosted an estimated 1 million students from U.S. and Canadian colleges on their spring break. This spring, close to 10,000 are expected, many of whom will be sleeping four to five to a room, rafting up their rented JetSkis and pontoon boats on Lake Havasu sandbars, and consuming high octane Tremor cocktails at Kokomo -- the West's largest outdoor nightclub (capacity 3,500).
Local hotels, restaurants and boat rental companies actively solicit their business, through advertising, at least three separate Facebook accounts, tweets and websites, all seeking a share of the estimated $1.8 million in annual spring break revenue.
Special deals during this period are decidedly student-friendly:
The Days Inn, where advance reservations are twice that of one year ago, offers a room that sleeps four, breakfast, and a four-hour JetSki rental for under $50 per person per day (daysinnlakehavasu.com). At the Nautical Beachfront Resort (nauticalinn.com) a four-night stay called "Get Wet in Havasu" costs $30 per person based on four to a room (tax and fees extra). The Bridgewater Motel (bridgewatermotel.com), minutes from the boat launch ramps at Windsor Beach, offers a midweek Spring Break room with two beds (max. capacity four people) for $59.95.
One tour operator called Southwest Action Tours (swatevents.com) is packaging three nights of beachfront accommodations, d.j. parties, concerts and other events for $249 per person.
The Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau (golakehavasu.com) is marketing spring break to scores of college campuses as far away as Connecticut State University, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Montana, while a team of net-savvy interns promotes Lake Havasu City Spring Break on Facebook, Twitter, and 20 other social media sites.
"We embrace spring break. It's a driving economic force in the community, allows us to introduce Lake Havasu City to a new generation of visitors, and serves as the official kick-off of the March through October high season," said Cal Sheehy, general manager of the London Bridge Resort, where advance bookings for March and April are up 25 percent over this time last year. "Spring breakers who have a positive experience when they're young, will often return later in life once they have families of their own."
Safety First Given the reputation of rowdy spring breakers elsewhere, safety, especially sober boating, is on everyone's mind.
On March 1, the Lake Havasu Marine Association will launch its voluntary Designated Operator program to curb Operator Under Influence (OUI) violations. Boat and JetSki rental companies will require teetotaling Designated Operators to be identified by wristbands, and renters will sign a statement agreeing to forfeiture of their deposits -- often as much as $1,000 -- if cited for OUI. Posters and stickers read, "Sober Skippers Rock." The designated operators wearing wristbands will receive free soft drinks when visiting participating businesses.
"Spring breakers are a huge economic influence here for a town that depends on tourism. We want these college students to have a good time, be responsible, and have one member in the group who agrees to remain sober," said Jim Salscheider, executive director of the Lake Havasu Marine Association (lhcma.com).
Six separate law enforcement agencies are behind the effort, including the Lake Havasu City Police Department.
Local Police Chief Dan Doyle, a resident of the area for 23 years, said, "We want spring breakers to have fun, but be smart about it. We want them to go back to college as healthy as they came here and not do anything stupid they will regret for the rest of their lives."
Former spring breaker Kristina Gallo, general manager of the Days Inn and now a full-time resident, says, "It's definitely a little crazy during spring break, a little busy then, but you thrive on the energy of the kids who come to have a great time."
For more information: www.golakehavasu.com