Friday, December 16, 2005

Ron Jon Gets Go-Ahead

PORT CANAVERAL (Florida Today) – Although they expressed reservations about the project, Canaveral Port Authority commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to begin negotiating with Ron Jon Surf Shop to build a theme-park-like hotel and resort at the port. The commissioners said they are opposed to giving Ron Jon control of Jetty Park – a campground, fishing spot and beach at the port's shipping entrance on the Atlantic Ocean. "It's important to point out that not everybody agrees with their proposal in its entirety," said Commissioner Ralph Kennedy. The hotel and resort – called Ron Jon World – would be built on a 26-acre Port Authority site on the Banana River, but Ron Jon wants to shuttle visitors to Jetty Park as an extra attraction. At an estimated cost of $147 million, the Ron Jon World proposal calls for a 400-room hotel with a high-rise tower and a five-story wing, a 20,000-square-foot conference center, a 72,000-square-foot store, a water and surf park, an exhibition hall, and an 1,800-car parking garage, among other features. The complex is projected to draw 700,000 visitors or more a year, with $135 million a year in direct spending.

  • The commissioners and others said they would like to see a larger conference center than the 20,000-square-foot facility that Ron Jon has proposed at the Banana River site.
  • In addition, Commissioner Chairman Ray Sharkey expressed concerns about the design of the proposed resort's surfboard-shaped hotel on the river – calling it a "200-foot monument to Ron Jon." He said it would look like "a big billboard," and suggested the company "tone down" the design, and get a major hotel company involved in the project.
  • Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Stan Payne said the authority will approach the negotiations with Ron Jon from the standpoint that "I would like the port to operate Jetty Park, and have Ron Jon enhance our operation of Jetty Park."
  • Ron Jon President Ed Moriarty responded that Jetty Park "is not going to be a Ron Jon park." He said the company would like to see the park's landscaping and campground facilities upgraded, as well as no longer charging admission at the park. In addition, Moriarty said the company found that a conference center larger than 20,000 square feet would not be "economically viable," although enlarging it some time in the future might be possible.

Cocoa Beach-based Ron Jon has been a major player in Brevard County's tourism industry for years, with its flagship store in Cocoa Beach. However, the Cocoa Beach store would close and a larger Ron Jon store would be part of the port resort at the port. In voting to pursue Ron Jon's plan, commissioners accepted the recommendation of Port Authority administrators, who selected Ron Jon over a competing proposal by Merritt Island-based Sheraton Group. Sheraton proposed a 370-room hotel with some units for extended stays, a 60,000-square-foot convention center, and an aquatic facility for sea life, among other features.

No comments: