Fall 2015

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As the Fort lauderdale international Boat Show continues to grow, its home, Bahia Mar, has some major expansion plans in the works, too. BY CONNOR HANSEN PORTRAIT BY EDUARDO SCHNEIDER 120 Venice VISION QUEST O ver the years, words like "iconic," "stately" and "integral" have been used to describe the historic Bahia Mar Resort Hotel & Yachting Center, which is nestled between the beach and the Intracoastal Waterway. But, like with all grand dames, time takes its toll, and the moment was ripe for a little work to be done. Enter the visionary team of Tate Capital. "We want to create something visionary so that when you arrive at this transformative property, you know you're somewhere special," says Jimmy Tate, president of Tate Capital, part of the group of investors that recently purchased the lease on the 39-acre parcel. "We want to create something amazing for this community that is best in class and hasn't been done before." Brothers Jimmy and Kenny Tate, Miami real estate developers who co-own the company, joined Sergio Rok, president of Rok Acquisitions, as well as Rialto Capital Management and RCI Group, in the venture in July 2014. As South Florida natives and boaters who grew up on the beach, these investors understand what an asset Bahia Mar is to the community and what an even greater asset it can become. The property currently includes a 250-slip marina that can accommodate mega-yachts up to 230 feet and a 297-room DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in two buildings, all of which will remain in place even after the renovations, Tate says. "We realized that so much more could be done with this property to benefit the city and the industry," Tate says. "We did a lot of research to see what people want and especially what they don't want. How do we make this a destination?" The blueprints paint quite the picture of transformation and, if development goes according to plan, Fort Lauderdale will have a new treasure in the next seven to 10 years. A NEW CROWN JEWEL In artful renderings of the future Bahia Mar, people dine alfresco at upscale restaurants. Residents walk dogs and bike on a half-mile long, 18-foot-wide promenade that snakes along the Intracoastal Waterway. At one end is a market- like area with kiosks selling food and merchandise. It looks bustling. It looks energetic. It looks like a place Fort Lauderdalians will enjoy on a regular basis. "We want to be a part of this community," says Robert Christoph of RCI Group. "This crown jewel of Fort Lauderdale is known throughout the industry, the Eastern Seaboard and the world; but locals seem to visit only if they have a boat here or are coming to the boat show. We want them to have a reason to come here all the time—and we want them to leave refreshed." The project's master plan includes condominiums, high-end restaurants, office space, a grocery store and a renovated marina. "We want it to be a destination that the rest of the industry strives to become," Christoph says. And as this property modernizes, so will its crown jewel, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which holds the acclaim of world's largest in-water boat show and has an annual economic impact of $650 million. "The boat show is a major component of this project, and our plan is to continue to improve and make it even better," Christoph says of the annual fall show. The Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF), which owns the show, is the largest marine trade organization in the Southeast. It reports that activity relating to the boat and yacht industry supports 110,000 middle-class jobs in Broward County and 136,000 jobs regionally. Phil Purcell, executive director of MIASF, is part of the team making the boat show more chic and cutting edge. "We know we are the biggest, but we also want to be the best," Purcell says. "If we don't reinvest in ourselves, we will die. What they are doing with Bahia Mar is truly unique, and it will not only cater to world travelers but also to the marine industry and locals. It will vastly improve the boat show, and we need to be focusing on our core businesses and who we want to attract." MIASF's partner Show Management, manages and produces the boat show, and leaders within the organization recognized that the timing was right and seized the opportunity to take it to the next level. The company recently hired a new vice president of marketing, Brett Keating, and contracted event planning firm QuintEvents, which specializes in high-impact experience packages and exclusive perks to some of the world's most prestigious events, such as the soirees associated with the NBA, the NFL, Barrett Jackson, the Breeders Cup and more. "Something as conservative as this boat show is not normally associated with being cutting edge, visionary, cool and innovative, but we're trying to change that," says Keating, who previously worked in marketing with Brunswick Boat Group and Ferretti Group. "As the largest exhibitor at the show in the past, I saw that we needed to shake it up." Some industry leaders say this boat show has become a victim of its own success. It grew faster than could be managed, which resulted in a confusing maze of exhibit areas that were difficult to navigate. Incorporated into Bahia Mar's renovation plans are major structures to support the boat show's international audience of more than 1.25 million attendees and exhibitors. In addition, the organization plans to remap the show to create a better flow. Because of the emphasis on new energy, when the 56th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show motors into the "yachting capital of the world" from November 5-9, it will be doing so with a new swagger in its step. Posh VIP lounges, after parties, gourmet food, valet parking, world-class entertainment and advanced multimedia technologies will make this anything but your grandfather's boat show. "WHAT THEY ARE DOING WITH BAHIA MAR IS TRULY UNIQUE, AND IT WILL NOT ONLY CATER TO WORLD TRAVELERS BUT TO THE MARINE INDUSTRY AND LOCALS." —Phil Purcell

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