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South Padre OKs $100,000 cruise industry study

September 2, 2018

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Making the Island a cruise line destination is still beyond the horizon.

However, the idea is continuing to make progress in its multi-step process that city officials believe could create positive impacts in local communities.

This past week, the Economic Development Corporation approved a $100,000 feasibility study for attracting cruise ships to the Island.

Mayor Dennis Stahl said the Island creates tremendous amounts of its revenue in June, July, early August and March. But “there are also many lean months.”

City officials’ initial reason for studying cruise ships was to help offset the Island’s off-season.

“As a councilman and when I decided to run for mayor, the thing that I heard over and over again from restaurants, attractions, retailers and merchants on the Island was, ‘Can you do anything to help us during the slow season?’” Stahl said.

However, Stahl said making the Island a cruise line destination “could also have a tremendous impact on residential real estate values.”

“The Island has also struggled for many years with stagnant residential real estate values,” the mayor said. “Many cruise visitors would have their first exposure to the Island during their day-long visit.”

“Industry sources tell me that a popular journey for cruise couples is to go out and look at potential retirement or second homes,” he added.

In 2017, the board approved $100,000 in the first step of the cruise industry study.

“I’ve described the process as a multi-step process,” Stahl said. “Number one, we need to make sure that the cruise lines like the idea and the attractions of the Island, Port Isabel and county area,” he added.

Last year, Stahl and the city manager met with executives from Carnival, Norwegian, Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. The mayor did not want to proceed further into the plan until he made sure there was an interest from the cruise lines.

“There was definitely an interest from those cruise lines,” Stahl said. “Between our beaches, Sea Turtle Inc., birding center, lighthouse square in Port Isabel, Brownsville zoo and eight other attractions, they felt it was worth further consideration,” he added.

Stahl said the Island’s infrastructure and possible docking locations were studied. Although docking locations and options were presented to city officials, “a final decision on location has not been made.”

However, Stahl said city officials have narrowed down their locations and are doing further work on one location that is just off of Isla Blanca Park.

City officials plan to visit more with cruise lines in the coming months to discuss preliminary plans for docking infrastructure and other matters.

“We also want to make sure that Cameron County and the Island work together to bring this project into Isla Blanca Park and onto the Island,” Stahl said.

“A lot of it is still preliminary, but we feel it’s worth the investment to at least see if the opportunity is viable,” the mayor added.

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