Party culture explodes in Lake Havasu City
March 26, 2014
SPRING BREAK. Time to retreat to paradise and go as crazy as possible for that mid-semester college ritual of rebellion.
Lake Havasu City is one of those places, known for raging sunshine that will brown you in a heartbeat and a party culture like no other.
According to the General Manager of London Bridge Resort Cal Sheehy, the city has seen more than 10,000 visitors over the last three weeks.
Summer, Winter Action Tours, more commonly known as SWAT, is a student travel company that offers trip packages for students. For the last five years, SWAT has brought thirsty college students by the hordes to the usually laid back lake, which is split down the middle by the California-Arizona border.
Additionally, mega festivals have been on the rise. What has always been a spontaneous party during spring break is now an organized event. However, the city rejoices in this organization, as it still brings the benefit of tourism but keeps it in a quarantined place.
SWAT creates a city of its own for spring breakers, giving them a section of certain hotels to infiltrate for their several-day stay and offering exclusive access to concerts, party boats and other waterside events. “Party packages” with hotel accommodations range from $320 to $430 and include concerts, beach games, themed parties and special access to events and party boats.
Cal State Long Beach’s spring break will be the fourth and final week of the SWAT events, and many CSULB students are heading out to Lake Havasu on a party bus shared with Cal State Fullerton students.
Josh Flores, a freshman kinesiology major, will be joining friends and fraternity members on the party bus.
“When I hear the name [Havasu] first thing that comes to mind is one of those ‘Girls Gone Wild’ commercials that I used to get my mouth watery over as a teenager,” Flores said. “I like to say, what happens in Havasu, never happened.”
It’s a wonder that Lake Havasu City manages to keep the streets clean and the water crystal clear during these four weeks of solid college partying. The city manages to recover flawlessly after the last party buses leave, preparing for the influx of families and youngsters for the summer session.
Michelle Gardia, the director of communications for the Lake Havasu City Visitor’s Bureau, like many residents of Lake Havasu, has adapted to the fast-paced tourism and has come to appreciate the high volume of energy.
“The spring breakers are a well behaved group, for the most part,” Gardia said.
Although the SWAT website claims to have “built Lake Havasu City, AZ to be the top Spring Break destination on the West Coast,” Gardia said that statements such as these influence the common misconception that Lake Havasu is only a “party place.” She said that while youths spend their crazy days in Havasu, those young people who will go on to have careers and families will always want to return for a more family-friendly experience on the lake.
Aside from SWAT, however, local businesses know how to keep spring breakers happy. According to Sheehy, guests at the popular hotel are given free “Party Shark” cards, which scores them free access to certain bars and clubs, discounts on food and a complimentary breakfast every morning.
Sgt. Troy Stirling, who has been with the Lake Havasu Police Department for 18 years, said the influx of spring breakers has always been pretty steady, but SWAT brought the “known element” — officializing the party scene and helping the city prepare by gauging how many visitors they will expect during a given season.
“[SWAT] seems to be pretty organized [and] have a number of activities for kids,” Stirling said. [SWAT enables young people] to come out here and stay occupied [and they] do a good job of maintaining the large number of students they bring in.”
Stirling said that if there are any complaints, they directly contact event organizers to appease grouches about music volume and other such issues.
“What’s good about SWAT management is that they work really well with us,” Stirling said.
Stirling said that Lake Havasu City embraces spring breakers because they fuel its economy.
“That’s what we base our livelihood off of out here,” Stirling said. “For us in the community, it’s the start of our summer visitors so it kind of kicks off.”
Although the city is accustomed to the high volume of tourism, what is spring break without a little chaos?
Stirling said that over the years the LHCPD has incorporated a special assignment unit with a sergeant and a few other officers to patrol the channel area, watching out for people dangerously crossing the channel, getting in fights or violating boating laws. Officers on this special unit may stay up into the wee hours of the morning in the downtown areas once the sun sets, and for this reason they are often paid overtime.
According to Stirling, last weekend, which ended SWAT’s second week of spring break events, saw 125 arrests, 21 of which were of individuals associated with SWAT.
“To date, the number one arrest has been minor consumption of alcohol … for some reason or another they have contact with police,” Stirling said. “There are multiple [other] reasons, [such as] arguments or fights that bring police into contact with them, then we find they’re underage and have been drinking.”
Stirling advises spring breakers to be smart, and stick in groups — a drunken wandering has never done anyone any good.