Mega yacht docking could boost St. Pete economy

- A big bet on a potentially oversized economic engine is now in play on the southern end of downtown St. Petersburg. 

Mega yacht dockage is now available at the Harborage Marina. One 145-foot boat, the "I Love This Boat", is already in residence and two more of the same size are expected in March. 

The new facilities can handle vessels up to 250-300 feet long.

Referring to the Harborage's ownership, dock master Shawn Dudley said, "they're putting their bets on St. Petersburg as a destination for the larger boats, for the mega yachts." 

The active downtown scene is considered a magnet for mega yacht owners and their guests. The active marine industry in the Salt Creek district can handle the maintenance. 

"Say you've got a $15 million boat. The operating expenses for a boat like that are typically 10-percent of the asking price of the boat," Dudley explained.

From diesel mechanics and fiberglass craftsmen to electronics specialists and small engine repairmen, Dudley pointed out big yachts bring big money to the local economy. 

The docking upgrade cost more than $3 million, most of which was spent with local contractors and manufacturers. 

Fresh and waste water plumbing and electrical utilities are tucked inside floating concrete docks that rise and fall with the tides and are designed to handle a 10-foot storm surge. Their pilings are 24-inch stress concrete sunk into the bedrock below, to withstand the extra stress a huge boat creates.  

The mega yacht facility quietly opened in January and a grand opening is planned in March.

The city of St. Petersburg taxpayers also have a stake in this bet. The Harborage Marina leases its submerged land from the city, and those payments are partly based on revenues.

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