New management at the 58-slip Uncle Henry's Marina is determined to make its under-performing property a recreation destination.
Too few slips filled and too little to do has meant travelers crossing the Boca Grande Swing Bridge regularly bypassed the first marina they encountered after paying the toll. Yet Uncle Henry's Marina is a first-rate docking facility just 1.5 miles from the Intracoastal Waterway able to berth vessels up to 80-feet long.
The lack of business didn't add up so a management expert was called in. Dave Arner of Lee Belle Management, a division of Lee Belle Publishing, has been given a three-year contract to rejuvenate the property.
Warning signs have been taken down at Uncle Henry’s Marina and replaced with more welcoming signage.
"I'm back in my element," Arner said. "I've dealt with worse."
One of his first moves was to take down signs that warned people they didn't belong on the property, he said.
"An immediate change is we had a property with signs telling people to 'Go Away,' " Arner said. "That created the misperception this is a private marina. It's a public marina."
Uncle Henry's Marina at a glance
Who: Owned by Uncle Henry's Marina Association with Seale Family Inc. Realtors of Boca Grande exclusively handling slip management
What: 58-slip public marina
Where: 1.5 miles west of the Intracoastal Waterway on the south side of the Gasparilla Island Causeway at the north end of Gasparilla Island
Daily dockage: $2.50 per foot, 25-foot minimum, electricity, Wi-Fi, cable TV and water included
On-island transportation: rental bikes and golf carts and taxi service can be arranged.
Water level: 5 feet in the channel and at the docks at median low water
Contact: Call 964-0154
The next move was to erect signs telling people they had arrived at the right place for a good time. Arner said marinas have two option: Be a boring place to store your boat or a fun place where people enjoy hanging out.
"Our goal is to turn this into an entertainment destination," he said.
To that end, Arner said he plans to schedule special events in connection with the neighboring Tiki Hut and the Boca Grande Resort to draw more people in and raise awareness of the marina.
The small building that formerly housed Boca Boats just off the Uncle Henry's Marina boat ramp will be reactivated under the Uncle Henry's Marina banner with snacks, drinks and boating necessities.
Arner said he also intends to rent out kayaks and standup paddleboards and stage offshore exercise classes.
"Standup paddleboarding is growing like crazy," he said.
The current five-member staff will be retained, Arner said.