Pittsburgh Boat Show sails into Monroeville Convention Center
The Pittsburgh Boat Show always provides boating enthusiasts with an opportunity to see the newest boats on the market.
But the show also features a large display of vintage boats and canoes, two free boating-safety classes, and the opportunity for some youths to receive a free life jacket.
The 2014 show kicks off today, Thursday, and runs through Sunday at the Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Blvd. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. today and Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
The convention center will have booths and exhibits representing boat dealers, marinas, insurance companies and boating-accessories dealers, along with educational resources. The Army Corps of Engineers, for example, will have a display showing how to navigate locks on local rivers.
Admission for adults is $9, cash only, while children younger than 10 are admitted for free when accompanying an adult. Parking is free.
For many boat lovers, the highlight of the show will be the chance to get an up-close look at the hot new boats on the market.
“The boat show gives you the opportunity to look at every boat inside, where it's warm and well lit. It will be good to get people excited about boating again since the weather has been so cold,” said Jay Sharer, finance manager and a sales associate at Fox Chapel Marine.
Attendees can check out the new Sea Ray 370 Venture, a 37-foot cruiser with twin outboard engines.
“The industry has seen a huge surge in outboards. Sea Ray did a real nice job with this boat. It is super quiet, and the outboards are on the back which gives more interior room,” said Sharer, 35, of Fox Chapel.
Fox Chapel Marine usually has about one-third of the floor space at the show, Sharer said, and will display 30 to 35 boats ranging from 13 to 37 feet. He plans to bring the 2014 models of the Sea Ray Sundancer and Sundeck.
If someone is planning to buy a boat, Sharer recommends doing it now.
“This is when you can get the best rebates of the year,” he said.
John Zalenchak, general manager of Mosites Motorsports in North Huntingdon, said personal watercraft are becoming more affordable.
“Sea-Doo has the new Spark priced just under $5,000. That cost is unheard of in the industry anymore,” Zalenchak said.
He said the Sea-Doo Spark, which Mosites will have at the boat show, is designed to introduce families to the water sport.
“When you have a family, you usually want to get more than one watercraft. With the Spark, you can get two skis on a trailer for roughly $11,000,” said Zalenchak, 33, of Cranberry Township.
Besides having five bright colors to choose from and all kinds of graphics to personalize the new Spark, Zalenchak said, Sea-Doo is having warranty specials, and the boat show “will have the best deals of the season.”
Mosites Motorsports also will display wake boats and a variety of other personal watercraft.
“Boating is a great family activity,” said Andy Talento, executive director of the Tri-River Marine Trade Association and organizer of the boat show for nearly 30 years.
He said the majority of people who buy boats are using them for family recreation.
“Boaters are a very friendly bunch, and the city has made great strides in recreational boating,” said Talento, adding that Pittsburgh-area boaters can enjoy fireworks, sporting events and concerts from a different perspective on the water.
Talento, 60, of Penn Hills, said the addition of a marina at Station Square on Pittsburgh's South Side and docks at Sandcastle, the water park in West Homestead, has given families more options on the waterways, too.
“Years ago, we'd call boating the endless vacation because it lasts all summer long,” he said.
Pontoon boats remain popular because of their versatility, Sharer said.
The boat show will have several pontoon boats on hand, including seven from Avalon displayed by Fox Chapel Marine. “This is our second year with Avalon. They are a really great manufacturer with us,” Sharer said.
Talento said pontoon boats have become popular with families and big groups because they are stable and can hold a lot of people. They also can be used for fishing.
“We have a lot of small lakes that require limited horsepower. Pontoons are popular there because they have a small motor,” Talento said.
All operators of boats with 25 horsepower or greater and all operators of personal watercraft must complete a boating-safety course. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will offer two free classes during the boat show. For more information on the classes, contact the commission at 814-443-9841, or email email@example.com.
The commission also will offer a free life jacket-safety workshop for families, and participants can register for a free youth life jacket at the commission's booth beginning at noon Sunday.
Up to 50 youth life jackets will be available, and the workshop will last about 15 minutes. The giveaway is sponsored by the Fish & Boat Commission, Cabela's, the Port of Pittsburgh Commission and the Pittsburgh Safe Boating Council as part of the national “Wear It” campaign promoting proper use of life jackets.
Mandy Fields Yokim is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.