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MarineMax proposes a yacht hub at St. Pete airport

Veronica Brezina

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Clearwater-based giant yacht retailer MarineMax is vying to lease St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport property to build a large manufacturing hub. 

The proposed $38 million facility for MarineMax Inc. and its company, Largo-based Intrepid Powerboats, would allow MarineMax to manufacture larger yachts – a growing demand from its customers.

The project would also result in the creation of 300 local jobs. 

MarineMax submitted its proposal to the airport to enter a lease agreement, which could extend up to 50 years, for the property, located 900 front feet east of Bayside Bridge, north of Roosevelt Boulevard and west of the airport.

The property was originally developed by Specialty Restaurants in the mid ’70s as a restaurant and banquet facility. The business closed and was subleased to another establishment, the Turtle Club. The Turtle Club also eventually closed, and the county terminated the existing lease with Specialty Restaurants and demolished the remaining structure to market, according to county documents. 

A request for negotiations regarding the future of the property was advertised late last year and MarineMax was the sole proposer. 

Under MarineMax’s proposal, which the company shared with the St. Pete Catalyst, it would build a 132,000-square-foot manufacturing building, a 400-space parking garage, a travel lift well for hauling and launching yachts, and a docking facility. 

MarineMax’s conceptual plans for the site. Image: Pinellas County documents.

MarineMax would work with St. Petersburg-based Wannemacher Jensen Architects on the project. 

However, if MarineMax is unsuccessful in leasing the site, the retailer would search outside of the state for another option, MarineMax VP of Real Estate Sam Lowry said to the Catalyst

“We have looked at other sites, but this is very unique in this market to have a property like this and that is large enough,” Lowry said about the 9.5-acre site. “It’s on the water, in Tampa Bay and has deep-water access – that’s a needle in a haystack kind of find.” 

The former Turtle Club site has access to deep water for yachts that otherwise cannot be transported over land. It is also close to the airport and has an “island effect,” as it has low surrounding connectivity, which is ideal for manufacturing, MarineMax wrote in its proposal. 

It’s generally difficult to transport yachts over 50 feet long via the highway. 

“That [challenge] was really the driving force behind us getting into this category of building bigger yachts via the Intrepid brand. Those boats have to move from a manufacturing facility that’s on the water. When they are finished and have towers on them, they can’t be transported on the road,” he said. “You now have this unique opportunity to build, develop and deliver these boats on the water … Intrepid is at 100% capacity. The custom-built demand for the product is extremely high, and they need more room to grow. Those customers who are Intrepid boat owners want larger boats and we want to keep them in the Intrepid product lines.” 

MarineMax noted the estimated $38 million capital cost may alter. 

“The capital investment of $38M [million] is significantly higher than we anticipated. We believe the current estimate is inflated due to supply shortages and historically high demand. We anticipate a final construction budget that is meaningfully lower than this initial estimate,” the team wrote in the proposal. 

Out of the 300 projected jobs the development would generate, 280 would be tradesman positions, and the remaining 20 jobs would be for administration and support staff roles. The average wage for the jobs would be approximately $50,000.

The project would also create 315 temporary construction-related jobs during the one-year buildout of the project.

Advanced manufacturing is a target industry cluster in Pinellas County. While MarineMax is currently not seeking incentives, it is considering how it can work with the county on the infrastructure costs, as MarineMax will have to source power across the Bayside Bridge. 

The proposed lease agreement will go before Pinellas County commissioners Dec. 13. 

Per the agreement, MarineMax would pay a rate of 60 cents per square foot, which totals roughly $62,247 for fiscal year 2024, $186,741 for 2025 and $248,987 for the fiscal years 2026 through 2083. 

After the five-year initial term of the lease and on the five-year anniversary date, the annual rental rate would increase based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). 

Today, MarineMax has over 100 properties worldwide and continues to shatter its revenue records. In 2021, the company had a revenue of over $2 billion. 

The company also recently acquired several waterfront parcels in Tarpon Springs, as well as the entire Midcoast Marine Group. 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jim jomes

    December 7, 2022at6:13 pm

    Meh, not impressed. Marine Max is over leveraged and the custom yacht industry is destined to crash.

  2. Avatar

    John Donovan

    December 7, 2022at4:29 pm

    Exciting project. That land has been vacant for a long time.

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