San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 29th, 2009
Aquarena, Rogers family launch effort to preserve glass-bottomed boats

Editor’s Note: Texas State University recalled a version of this story that ran in The Mercury earlier this week. It is replaced here with a corrected story.


Texas State University alongside the A.B. Rogers family are working to ensure that the elegant, handmade, glass-bottom boats that have toured the Aquarena since the middle of the 20th century will remain in service for decades to come.

The family of A.B. Rogers, founder of the original Aquarena Springs Resort in 1928, will publish a book chronicling the history of the resort with royalties from its sales going to aide in preservation and maintenance of the original boats.

“The glass-bottom boats were an integral part of Aquarena from its inception.  They have always provided a way for people to really appreciate the beauty of the San Marcos River,” said Doni Weber, great-granddaughter of A.B. Rogers.  “I am thrilled that the Aquarena Center continues to use the boats today for that purpose, but I know the preservation of these boats takes tremendous resources.  Our entire family agreed that the proceeds should go toward keeping part of A.B. and Paul Rogers’ dream alive for generations to come.”

Ronald Coley, director, Aquarena Center, said other revenue sources are being sought to ensure the boats’ continued operation.

“We have this legacy of these handmade heirlooms that were built specifically for this place,” Coley said.  “Each boat has a history and is a part of a legacy which is what we hope to preserve.  We want to make sure these boats will be here 100 years from now.”

Coley said establishing a steady source of funding for maintenance and upkeep on the boats is an important element to ensuring the success of the Aquarena.  While educational programs at the Aquarena Center are funded by the revenue they generate, the aging boats can require as much as $60,000 a year for maintenance and periodic overhauls.

Furthermore, the center welcomes more than 125,000 visitors annually, many of them school children to learn about river resources, aquatic life and the sensitive ecosystem.  Tours on the glass bottom boats are essential to that educational experience.

Overhauls and necessary repairs on the boats have been postponed in the past due to financial constraints.  Now, only five of the original 10 boats are in active operation.

“These truly are unique, one-of-a-kind treasures,” Coley said.  “We will be able to preserve and update these original landmarks with the help of the Rogers family and private sponsorships.”

For more information or to find out how to contribute to the preservation efforts, please contact Ted McKinnon at (512) 245-8301 or email


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2 thoughts on “Aquarena, Rogers family launch effort to preserve glass-bottomed boats

  1. It is great to see the university working to preserve something that really helps define San Marcos. It would be very easy to just toss these boats out, without even giving a thought to their history.

  2. Like hundreds of young people, I too drove these boats on Spring Lake. My time was in the 1960’s and boy was it great! I still remember my first day on the day so vividly, who wouldn’t? I woke up all through the night thinking that I was at work driving the boat and telling the guests about our beautiful lake. It was a long night and I still remember my brothers throwing pillows at me to wake me up. That’s how much fun the job was. The best ever year was 1968, the year that San Antonio was home to Hemisfair. Every attraction from the first to last Submarine Theatre Show, Glass Bottomed Boat Ride, Texana Village, the Swiss Sky Ride, you name it and it was full. Aquarena was a time and place that our country needs today. The pay was not great but I would wager that there is not a single person that worked for the Rogers family that hasn’t at some point given them a huge thank you for the life’s lessons that came free with the job. Example, I was in trial in Richmond, Texas for the last several weeks and happened across Bob Haenel who is the Executive Editor for the Fort Bend Herald. Although we never saw each other in person, we were exchanging emails after the verdict and I learned that five of the six Haenel children had worked at Aquarena. We’re going to have lunch in a week or so and I am sure that we will telling Aquarena stories. I think that it might surprise a lot of people and how many success stories have evolved out of our beautiful Spring Lake.

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