Starting last week, for the first time ever the Chicagoland Skydiving Center is hosting the USPA National Skydiving Championships.
Over the course of two weeks, more than 500 competitors from all over the U.S. and internationally will flock to the Rochelle drop zone to participate in a variety of disciplines, hoping to capture the first place title.
It is estimated about 1,500 people will be visiting the Rochelle area between the judges, USPA staff, spectators and competitors.
So what can spectators expect to see?
Becky Johns, CSC director of marketing and chief strategy officer, said the scene will resemble any other day for the most part. She noted some days will be busier than others, depending on the number of disciplines. The weather could play a part as well.
Each team has a videographer who flies with the team to record the performance in mid-air. The video is submitted and a panel of judges who are specially trained will rate the video and assign points. Spectators will be able to see as the judge awards points, indicated by green dots.
“It’s hard to see the freefall from the ground, and spectators will still see parachutes landing out front like you would on a normal day here. We will have the ability to show live judging,” Johns said. “Everything except one of the wingsuit disciplines is judged by video that is submitted after the team lands.”
For the wingsuit competitions, jumpers will wear suits that allow them to increase their horizontal glide. The suits will have GPS units that attach to helmets, which track the speed, distance and performance of the flyer.
Johns said the preparations began as soon as they received word CSC won the bid. CSC edged out two other previous hosts to secure the event as the first new host in nearly 20 years. Every two years there is a world competition, with Australia hosting this October.
In order to plan for the increased visitors, CSC has had to plan for everything from the extra aircraft needed, arranging sleeping areas, parking places and extra bathrooms, to working with the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce and local businesses so they are prepared for the influx of people.
Local businesses, organizations and members of the community are also volunteering and sponsoring breakfasts or selling foods on site.
“It is a lot of logistical planning…we have been asking businesses to create specials or something for competitors if they can, creating welcome posters or businesses with digital marquees to display welcome messages,” Johns said. “It’s really every layer of that over the last year is slowly coming together.”
Johns, a licensed skydiver with about 950 jumps, is looking forward to the event and is welcomes the community to attend. There will be food vendors each day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Flight Deck Bar and Grill will continue to offer items on a simplified menu for the duration. She says the two-week event is a time for everyone in the community to enjoy and be involved in.
“We will do what we can to have lawn games out and make it a fun place to hang out and be a cool place to be a spectator. There will be things happening every five minutes during busy times,” Johns said. “This is really about Rochelle. As long as the weather is good, the competitors are just trying to get in the air. Everyone’s goal is the same…the focus is on fun.”
Comprised of 39,000-plus members, the USPA is a non-profit association whose mission is to promote safe skydiving through training, licensing and instructor qualification programs; to ensure skydiving’s rightful place on airports and in the airspace system; and to promote competition and record-setting programs.
In total members make about 3.2 million jumps per year at over 220 USPA-affiliated drop zones across the U.S.