Pinellas County may lease a portion of St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport land to one of Tampa Bay’s largest public companies for the construction of a $38 million yacht manufacturing facility.
Clearwater boat retailer MarineMax has proposed building a 132,000-square-foot yacht manufacturing, launch and dock facility and 400-space garage on 9.5 acres of waterside land just off the Bayside Bridge, west of the airport. The company would lease the land for 50 years at 60 cents per square foot, or about $248,987 per year.
The proposal came in response to a November 2021 request for negotiation for the vacant property, which once hosted shops, restaurants and an event space and lounge called the Turtle Club. MarineMax was the only respondent. The proposal will go to the County Commission on Tuesday.
MarineMax intends to use the facility for Intrepid Powerboats, a Largo yacht manufacturer it acquired in 2021. MarineMax spokesperson Lisa Harrison said the proposed airport facility would not replace Intrepid’s Largo facility, but operate alongside it, enabling the company to build and ship out larger boats.
“The project would allow us to double our manufacturing capabilities right here in our hometown of Pinellas County,” MarineMax CEO Brett McGill and Intrepid president Ken Clinton wrote in a letter to the county in January.
MarineMax said in its proposal that the facility expects to staff about 300 employees, in addition to clients and other potential uses — hence the need for the garage. The company, which has seen revenues soar in recent years, expects the facility to generate an annual $75 million in boat sales.
The county’s initial request for proposals did not specify that the land had to be used for airport-related purposes, only that it should “advance one or more Pinellas County development goals,” such as creating jobs or increasing the tax base.
If the airport deal site falls through, MarineMax’s proposal stated, “we would begin a nationwide search for a suitable location.”
If approved by the county, the deal remains subject to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, given its proximity to the airport. County administrator Barry Burton doesn’t expect that to be a problem.
“It’s a really good project,” he said. “We’re really excited about it. It’s a significant investment in the community.”