Competition heats up among closely regulated marinas

Wi-Fi access is the amenity patrons value most, panelists said

Nov.November 05, 2015 04:00 PM

While it may look like a carefree, waterfront career, a panel of marina developers said competition is heating up as more developers add amenities like gyms, restaurants, Wi-Fi access and others to their properties.

And regulatory compliance isn’t getting any easier, they said at a panel on Thursday.

Mehmet Bayraktar said he spent nearly three years getting regulatory approvals for construction of his marina development in Miami. Bayraktar, chairman and CEO of Flagstone Property Group, is developing the contentious mixed-use property called Island Gardens on Miami’s Watson Island, which will be home to Deep Harbour, the only North American marina designed exclusively for mega-yachts up to 550 feet long.

“It only took 34 months to get the approvals,” he said, drawing laughter from an audience that included Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee Feldman.

Speaking Thursday on a panel that addressed marina industry trends at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Bayraktar also said yacht owners prefer to refuel at marinas that match the sophistication of their vessels, so marina owners are adding such amenities as gyms, lounges and restaurants.

Wi-Fi access is the amenity patrons value most. “It’s more important than water for boaters,” he said.

Steve Ryder, manager of project development at Belllingham Marine Industries, a specialist in construction of floating docks and marinas, said projects typically require three years of lead time to obtain regulatory approvals. Ryder said different regulators often enforce similar rules. “It tends to be overlapping layers of regulatory review.”

Nevertheless, he said, “there is an expansion of super-yacht facilities around the world.”

Ryder also said competitive marinas fully appreciate that their customers want a hassle-free experience. “The people we’re dealing with are on vacation. Boaters are trying to recreate,” he said.

Attracting more consumers to boating is critical, said Raymond Graziotto, president and chief operating officer of Seven Kings Holdings, which has 12 marinas in Florida operating under the Loggerhead brand.

“There’s actually less people boating today than ever before around the country,” Graziotto said. “We need to get more people in the tent. We need to diversify our customer base … Long term, if we don’t do that, we could be facing some challenges.”

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