MIAMI 2016: New show site draws positive reviews

MIAMI — Exhibitor and visitor response to the Progressive Miami International Boat Show seemed largely positive.
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MIAMI — Exhibitor and visitor response to the Progressive Miami International Boat Show seemed largely positive throughout the day on Friday at the show’s new venue at Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, with packed docks and displays on opening day and during the weekend.

Exhibitors in tents and outdoors seemed overwhelmingly supportive of the event and mostly understanding about glitches. Many said they expected a few hang-ups — more than they actually encountered — as the National Marine Manufacturers Association held the 75-year-old event for the first time at the site after a long, uphill battle with neighboring Key Biscayne threw up several roadblocks and delays.

There were snags regarding transportation to and from the show. On Thursday there were complaints of long lines at bathrooms and at food vendors, but show organizers scrambled to address them, tripling the number of shuttle buses and tapping every water taxi, tour boat and otherwise in the region, Carl Blackwell told Trade Only Today.

Traffic was mostly smooth in both directions on the Rickenbacker Causeway when checked, and Blackwell deployed a drone at regular intervals to make sure all was flowing.

“Once you get there, it’s a nice venue,” MasterCraft CEO Terry McNew told Trade Only Today on Friday. “It’s fun to have an outside venue, and the weather’s been great. I predict there are even more boats in the water next year. We had two boats in the water this year and want more next year.”

“Our crowds seem very happy,” said Cobalt CEO Paxton St. Clair said. “I think they did a great job.”

“This is absolutely awesome,” Capt. Steve Lamp, of Yellowfin Yachts, said. “Once they get the transportation, food and bathroom issues resolved it’s going to be a perfect venue.”

“Traffic has been way up on the docks,” said Rob Hackbarth, director of controls and rigging for Mercury Marine.

“The layout is nice, too,” added Michael Lemancik, director of software and controls engineering for Mercury. “You can concentrate on specific areas like engines or electronics, and there are connections to other tents. They really did a great job.”

The timing was right because Miami is really coming back economically, said David Foulkes, vice president of product development, engineering and racing at Mercury Marine and Brunswick Corp.’s chief technology officer. “So if we’re talking to a customer and saying, ‘Oh, you like this feature?’ we can just bring them right down to take them for a ride. Before we had none of that capability.”

Foulkes spoke from the back of a Nor-Tech 452 center console with five Verado 400R outboards powering it into Biscayne Bay.

Fritz Harrington, customer service manager for Fort Myers-based Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats, agreed that the boat-testing feature is important. “We want to succeed here,” Harrington said. “It’s easier for us to close boats here because people can experience them.”

Show visitor Richard Razgaitis spent much of the day with his 42-year-old son of the same name at Strictly Sail at Sea Isle before crossing over on a water taxi to check out powerboats.

“I think it’s great,” Razgaitis Sr. said despite a 45-minute wait for a water taxi. “It’s more accessible. You can walk a row and see the powerboats. The display tents are arranged well, and it’s easy to navigate between them.”

“It would be better if it were all in one place,” said his son, a Silicon Valley resident and CEO of a startup called FloWater — a company that provides chilled, fast-filling water refill stations for personal water bottles — something his father pointed out would be a perfect fit on the docks, where disposable plastic bottles were prohibited.

What appeared to be long lines at the water taxi stands as the show closed Friday moved relatively quickly, at least for some destinations, and most people in lines seemed in fairly amiable spirits.

Among them, with a beer in hand, was Mark Radak, president of Lauren Mar Builders in Deerfield Beach, Fla., who came looking for fishing gear and accessories for his 2004 23-foot Contender, which he recently repowered with a 300-hp Suzuki 4-stroke. (He’d preferred a Yamaha, but thought the Suzuki was too good a deal to pass up.)

“I like it here. I think it’s way better,” Radak said. “Obviously they’ve got kinks to work out, but that’s to be expected the first year. I love that it’s on the water. As a boater, I want to be by the water.”

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