The city's aging marina has a new sign, a newly built Ship Store and an ambitious plan to become a major profit center capable of augmenting property tax revenues.
The transformation of the municipal marina began more than a decade ago when the city took back management of the facility near the southwestern end of the Tom Stuart Causeway Bridge.
During that time, the city discussed building a high-and-dry boat storage building, raised and later lowered slip fees in hopes of attracting more renters, built a new boat ramp, and upgraded the marina's fuel tanks.
Last spring the city began construction on a new Ship Store at 503 150th Ave. to replace a temporary trailer installed years ago when the old ship store was torn down.
Last week, inspectors issued a certificate of occupancy for the new 2,500-square-foot building.
The store is now undergoing interior remodeling and stocking. When complete, it will include a wide inventory of items for boaters — from sunscreen and soda to fishing tackle organized by species of fish.
A wide deck will offer shaded tables and seating overlooking boats moored at the marina's docks.
New bathrooms even include showers.
The cost of the Ship Store is more than $44,000 less than the $509,300 originally budgeted, according to Marina Director Capt. Dave Marsicano.
The city has yet to decide how the marina will repay the construction cost, but it will likely be over a 15- to 25-year period at an interest rate of 1.5 percent.
Marsicano says he will market the upgraded facility locally, statewide and nationally through print and Internet advertising, fliers and word of mouth at other marinas and yacht and boating clubs.
He is also organizing a kayak club and offering storage for members' kayaks.
A charter dive boat, Dive App, owned by the Tackle Shack, will be based at the marina.
Other future projects include fishing tournaments and possibly sailing regattas, as well as a special lift on the floating dock to accommodate disabled boaters, a mooring field, transient docks around the city's recreation center, and a pump-out boat for resident boat owners.
Some of these projects may be funded by grants. Others need City Commission approval.
The marina still has a long way to go before its transformation to a modern facility, but city officials hope a long history of red ink may be over.
Marsicano said once the Ship Store is open and operating, he will focus on the installation of a new floating fuel dock and 10 boat lifts, as well rebuilding and replacing aging wet slips and electrical service to the docks.
Currently, the marina has 83 wet slips and 80 dry slips.
"I am very positive about the future of the city's marina," Marsciano said.
When the commission agreed to reduce slip rates about a year ago, the number of live-aboard boats moored at the marina tripled to nine boats, according to Marsicano.
"Our marina is potentially one of the city's strongest enterprise funds," says Mayor Travis Palladeno.
The mayor is so excited about the marina's turnaround that he plans to cut his hair for the first time in 21 years as part of the grand opening of the Ship Store on Aug. 11.
Most of Palladeno's 24-inch-long signature pony tail will be donated to Locks of Love, a charity based in West Palm Beach that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who suffer from long-term medical hair loss.
Some of his hair will also be auctioned, with the proceeds going to the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation and All Children's Hospital.
The Ship Store grand opening will coincide with the 23rd Annual Old Salt & Bill Currie Ford Inshore/Offshore Ladies Fishing Tournament that will be held at the Madeira Beach Municipal Marina Aug. 11 and 13.
The Angler's Party and grand opening of the Ship Store will begin at 7 p.m. Aug. 11. The tournament will begin at midnight on Aug. 13.