It's not even spring yet, but boating weather has already arrived - just in time for the 2012 Springfield Boat Show.
About 75 boats, ranging from personal watercraft and sleek fishing rigs to luxury pontoon craft and cruisers, will fill the main hall at the Springfield Expo Center, 635 St. Louis, during the Friday-through-Sunday event.
The boat show gives people a chance to step aboard a variety of new boats, check out new features and dream a little bit during the tail end of winter. Boat show prices range from about $10,000 for an outboard-powered fiberglass fishing boat to nearly $300,000 for a 35-foot inboard-powered lake cruiser.
Bobby Thomas, Sport Boats USA sales manager, said new boat sales took a hit during the recession, but he foresees better sales in 2012.
"I think that's exactly what it is, pent-up demand," Thomas said. "I think people are ready to spend."
Thomas said many new-boat manufacturers offer incentives ranging from price discounts to extended warranties on engines to help put new boats on the water.
With gas prices spiking to possibly record highs this summer, Thomas said many boaters are looking for engines that offer better fuel economy than in the past. Catalytic converters that reduce air pollution from engine exhaust also are becoming more prevalent on inboard-powered boats, he said.
Financing packages for qualified buyers can spread the cost of paying off a boat over several years. Thomas said it's not unusual to see 15-year loans for boats under $100,000 and up to 20 years for boats $100,000 and up.
The Chicago-based National Marine Manufacturers Association tracks boat sale data nationwide and reports that Missouri ranked 20th in 2010 for sales of new powerboats, trailers, outboard engines and aftermarket accessories.
In 2010, Missouri sales totaled $204.1 million, down 2.6 percent from the year before.
Missouri boat sales hit their peak in 2005, at $354.3 million, before the recession took hold and reduced sales each year through 2010.
NMMA expects to announce 2011 sales figures in May.
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