Florida

Irma destroyed this iconic tourist destination. Now, rebuilding effort faces budget shortfall

Mayor offers update on Anna Maria city pier

Mayor Dan Murphy offered an update on construction of the Anna Maria City Pier Monday to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council. Pier will be completed by December and the restaurant should be ready for business in March 2020.
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Mayor Dan Murphy offered an update on construction of the Anna Maria City Pier Monday to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council. Pier will be completed by December and the restaurant should be ready for business in March 2020.

Construction of the Anna Maria City Pier, the restaurant and the bait shop should be substantially completed in December, with the restaurant opening in March, Mayor Dan Murphy of the city of Anna Maria said Monday.

Murphy appeared before the Manatee County Tourist Development Council to request $435,000 in addition to the $1.5 million in resort tax funds the Manatee County Commission had previously approved to replace the pier, one of Manatee County’s most iconic and popular destinations.

The tourism development board unanimously agreed to recommend the county commission to allocate the money to help fill an $869,000 budget shortfall.

The shortfall arose when FEMA rescinded a grant that was to be used to help build a new pier to replace one that was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017. FEMA backed out of funding the grant because the city of Anna Maria began the pier replacement project prior to the execution of the FEMA agreement.

“We will provide the restaurant shell, and the restaurant vendor will build it out,” Murphy said of the completion of the pier in December and opening of the restaurant in March.

“We have to negotiate with whoever the tenant will be. The current tenant has first option. If that works out, fine. If it doesn’t work out, we move on. There are plenty of people interested in being the tenant on that pier,” Murphy said.

The Manatee County Commission is scheduled to take up the additional pier funding request in its first meeting after the summer recess.

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Construction of the city pier in Anna Maria should be substantially completed in December, and the restaurant at the end of the pier by March of 2020. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

In other business Monday, the tourist development council recommended approval of an additional $220,000 in funding for the Bradenton Area Sports Commission Tournament sponsorship.

The tourist development council is sponsoring 105 sporting events in fiscal 2018-2019, including 16 new ones. Notable events include USA Baseball’s Under 18 World Cup, the Under 23 World Rowing Championship, and LECOM Suncoast Golf Classic at Lakewood National.

The sporting events, primarily at IMG Academy, Premier Sports Campus and Nathan Benderson Park, help to sustain the Bradenton area tourism economy, even during times of adversity that affect local beaches, such as during hurricane season or most recently during the red tide outbreak.

The events bring an estimated 100,000 athletes to compete in the Bradenton area, along with friends and family.

Reconstruction is underway on the Anna Maria Island Pier, which lawmakers allocated $285,000 toward. The pier suffered significant damage at the hands of Hurricane Irma in 2017.

“It brings first-time visitors who often return,” Falcione said.

Tourist council member Ed Chiles said the growth of sports and recreational tourism has been phenomenal in the last dozen years.

“We see it every time they are in town. You see them in the restaurants and the shops. It is money well spent,” Chiles said.

The tourist development board also recommended approval of the fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021 marketing plan and budget for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The plan calls for spending $6,856,046 in fiscal 2020 and $6,369,105 in fiscal 2021 on airline initiatives, community partnerships, arts and culture, tourist information centers, the film commission, trade and travel shows, marketing to the United Kingdom and Central Europe, sports promotions and more.

The Pirates played the Rays at LECOM Park on Tuesday.

Among the capitol projects are $900,000 over two years to the City of Bradenton for LECOM Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training facility, $700,000 for the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish and $260,000 for the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature.

Finally, Walter Klages of Research Data Services presented his monthly update on the state of tourism in Manatee County.

In May, $1,490,453 in resort taxes were collected in Manatee County, compared to $1,264,805 in May 2018.

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Construction of the city pier in Anna Maria should be substantially completed in December, and the restaurant at the end of the pier by March of 2020. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Between April 2018 and April 2019, the number of area lodging rooms grew from 8,402 to 9,097, resulting in a 1.1 percent decrease in occupancy rates.

“Those are pretty good numbers. For all practical purposes it has been absorbed positively,” Klages said of the added inventory of rooms.

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