Yacht Basin construction continues

Published 3:19 pm Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Demopolis Yacht Basin construction continues, as it will grow to 350 slips, becoming the largest marina on the Tombigbee River.

The project is still in its infancy, but when completed, the 350 slips will be more than four times the current number of 80 slips in the basin.

“Essentially, what we’re doing right now is digging a hole,” said Yacht Basin owner Fred Hansard. “The end product ends up with a marina site in it, but we’re still two years out before we get into it.”

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Hansard said the preliminary cost of the construction was $6 million to $7 million for the total project.

“We wish we had done this a lot sooner, but you just have to get started when you can,” he said. “We started in 2002. By the time we get through, we will have moved 1.2 million yards of material to create this hole. We took out everything that we could take out by trackhoe, and now, we’re actually dredging it out. We’re taking it down to 16 feet, which is going to be nice.”

Hansard said the 350 slips would make this the largest marina on the waterway, challenged only by Iuka, Miss.

“The economic impact on this area would be tremendous,” he said. “Even when we start to build on it, though, we wouldn’t put 350 slips in right off. It would be a steady growth, but the full capacity would be 350 slips.

“One of the big markets that we’re looking at is the retirement community. There’s 78 million retirees — ‘Baby Boomers’ — that are fixing to retire over the next five years. I know at one time, they said that each retired person is the equivalent of a $400,000 to a $600,000 business because of the amount of money they bring into the area. Multiply that by 350, and that’s a pretty good chunk.”

Hansard said he would likely sell individual lots, although any other plans are “just on the drawing board” at this point.

“I’d like to look at a condo complex down the road, after we get this in,” he said. “In the next month, we’re fixing to open our third dry-storage yard. That’s a big business.”

Hansard said that the location of the yacht basin at Demopolis is significant.

“Hurricane season opened up a big avenue for us,” he said. “Anything above the 32-parallel (of latitude) is highly important., and we sit at the 32-31 (32 degrees, 31 minutes north latitude). So, we are just prime for all this. You get below the 32-parallel, you end up in what they call coastal waters, and insurance companies don’t like that during hurricane season.”

Because of the higher insurance rates on boats that are docked south of the 32n parallel, the Demopolis site is the marina located as far south as you can go without the higher insurance rates going into effect. For that reason, many people dock their boats here to avoid the higher rates. As the crappie swims, Demopolis is 230 miles from the Gulf coast, a boat trip of about two to three days.

The Demopolis Yacht Basin opened in 1985, and Hansard has been with it since 1986. The construction is certainly the most significant development since its opening, and can be equally significant to the businesses and economy of the City of Demopolis.