City approves changes to marina rates

Alexander Sinn • Feb 4, 2019 at 2:00 PM

In an effort to increase occupancy and cover operating costs, the City of Grand Haven is changing its marina rates.

The City Council voted unanimously Jan. 21 to approve numerous changes to the Municipal Marina rate and fee structure.

For the coming boating season, transient slips will be raised to an “E” rating for Fridays and Saturdays, while rates for the remainder of the week will be lowered to a “C.” The “E” rating starts at $40 for a 25-foot boat, while the “C” rating begins at $30 for the same length. 

Additionally, group hold boaters will be charged by the slip length, not the boat length. Slips not paid two weeks in advance of the event will be released.

Boat launch passes for the 2020 boating season will be increased from $10 to $15. 

“I anticipate these changes will stabilize marina operations, increase occupancy mid-week and generate additional revenue,” Community Affairs Manager Char Seise said in a memo to City Council.

Seise said the marina typically runs “in the red,” with revenues unable to cover the cost of operation.

Council members agreed that the rates would not take a further toll on the marina, but could have a positive impact.

“On a good year we break even,” Councilman Bob Monetza said. “The rest of the time, we don’t. We’re always looking for grants.”

The marina typically generates an average of $300,000 each fiscal year. The marina suffered last year due to bad weather on weekends, Seise said.

The days of highest occupancy are Fridays and Saturdays, especially June through August. The marina’s occupancy in August 2018 was 91 percent. 

However, during those busy months, there is a drop-off in occupancy on weekdays, to as low as 27 percent on Tuesdays in August 2018. 

The city marina is the only local marina that offers transient slips, for which rates have not increased since 2014.

North Shore Marina, Grand Haven Yacht Club, Keenan Marina and Grand Isle Marina provide season slips, according to city officials, while slips at the Holiday Inn in Spring Lake are privately owned.

Annual surveys show Municipal Marina guests are predominantly local boaters.

City Manager Pat McGinnis said the rate increases will take effect in May. 

The rate changes are primarily aimed at local boaters, he said. At the end of the year, with the data following these changes, McGinnis said, the council can determine whether it has made an impact. The action can easily be reversed or changed, he noted. 

“If occupancy goes up, we can change it back with a simple resolution,” McGinnis said. “We’re trying something different.” 

The city will pursue a marketing strategy to make boaters aware of the changes, hoping to draw more boaters to the marina on weekdays.

The Municipal Marina is located at 101 N. Harbor Ave., near Chinook Pier, and includes dockside facilities such as electricity, pump-out, water, ice, restrooms, showers and public phones. The marina typically operates from May 15 to Oct. 31, and hosts 12 events annually.

The city also operates a boat launch on Harbor Island, for which it offers day and seasonal passes.

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