Becoming a destination location for boaters takes an investment in facilities, a commitment from staff, publicity and good reviews said Gulfport Municipal Marina Director of Operations Denis Frain.
Recently, the marina earned the Boaters’ Choice award for the second year in a row from Marinas.com, which is owned by Dockwa, an established national online boating reservation system. Dockwa bought the online rating service in January 2017. According to the Marinas.com website, their goal is to be “the most useful destination for boaters to research marinas and waterways on the web.”
The awards are based on ratings reviews and they make “a difference because people who look for marinas look at the reviews,” he said. “The money the city has invested in the marina has gone a long way” toward making it popular. “We couldn’t have done it without the infrastructure upgrades. We’re happy about it all.”
Over the past several years, marina additions and upgrades have included a dayroom with a television and library, bathrooms, showers, an observation area for overnight patrons, a laundry facility and an open waiting area for tour-boat guests. The boat store was also increased in size and the layout was changed to be more efficient for patrons.
In addition, a new mooring field opened on Sunday, November 11 that accommodates a maximum of 25 sailboats.
For 2019, a series of additional upgrades will occur during the first quarter. In January, the horseshoe-shaped parking lot that extends from the marina’s lift station to the Boca Ciega Yacht Club (BCYC) entrance will be paved, said Frain.
New fencing will be installed around the marina to “make it look more resort style” than the previous galvanized fence type, he said. “You can see through it but it doesn’t really look like it’s there. It’s not invisible but it’s more eye appealing and eight feet high as opposed to six feet. We don’t have a security problem but in replacing the older fence, we went for a model that is pleasing to the eye with added height security.”
Palm trees will be added to the transient boater area and shade sails with picnic tables will provide gathering and waiting areas protected from the sun, he said.
Another enhancement to marina operations will be the addition of about 20 premium rentable lifts for powerboats. The lifts will be located near the BCYC.
Frain’s goals for the municipal marina in 2019 include making the new mooring field a destination location by doing some national advertising and attending area boat shows to educate people regarding what is available in Gulfport. Frain will also focus on training staff and reviving a 10-bicycle loaner program so that visiting boaters have a transportation option to reach the downtown and waterfront areas of the city.
“A lot of people don’t know where Gulfport is at all,” said Frain. “At boat shows, we book a lot of boaters that didn’t know about us like people from the Dunedin, Cape Coral and Naples boat clubs. We get exposure that way.
“When people discover Gulfport by coming here for one to two days, they fall in love with the place and they want to stay a week to two weeks. Location is a big part of it even though we are kind of off the beaten path. We have definitely become a destination for sure. My staff goes above and beyond seven days a week to make everyone who visits the marina feel at home.”