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South of bridge, a Community Sailing Center?

STORY BY STEPHANIE LABAFF (Week of November 5, 2020)

After a decade of launching its sailboats onto the lagoon from alongside the city’s wastewater treatment plant, the Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River County is hoping to secure a permanent mooring there and construct a Community Sailing Center.

The center, as presented to the Three Corners Steering Committee, would anchor development of the riverfront immediately south of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge.

The Youth Sailing Foundation pitch is part of the larger discussion on what should ultimately replace the city’s former power plant – just north of the bridge – and its current sewer plant on Vero’s mainland waterfront.

“Not only do we want to put up a beautiful building, but we want to make it as user-friendly as possible,” explained Stu Keiller, executive director of the Youth Sailing Foundation, adding that the project would require no funding from the city.

“We’re proposing to build a $2.5 million public park with a building. The building would probably be about $1.8 million, and the rest of the funds would go into the site development, pavilions, parking and an endowment fund to maintain the building.”

YSF has searched for a permanent home since 2017, and has already raised one-third of the $2.5 million cost.

“We’re not starting from zero. We have a substantial down payment on the building,” added Keiller. “We’ve maxed out where we can go without a proper building down on the water. This is the next natural step. YSF is ready to develop this building, develop that park and turn it over to the city.”

The park area would be open to the community 365 days a year. The addition of infrastructure, including bathrooms, water fountains and covered picnic tables, would allow families to enjoy the river from one of the very few riverfront public parks on the mainland.

YSF has already engaged in discussions with the Kiwanis, Exchange and Rotary clubs, along with the Pelican Island Audubon Society for assistance building picnic pavilions and designing irrigation free landscaping.

Floating docks lining a man-made grassy peninsula would allow everyone to enjoy their craft of choice, with onsite vendors offering kayak and paddleboard rentals.

Preliminary plans for the 10,000-square-foot boathouse, designed by architect Staffan H. Lundberg, include an open area on the first floor with built-in vents for water drainage. On the upper level, a porch would run the building’s length, offering a sweeping view of the Indian River Lagoon. Inside, the open space would be versatile, serving as a classroom, meeting room, or even as a potential wedding venue.

From a financial perspective, Keiller said the city would benefit from the $2.5 million building as well as the potential revenue from visitors, including hotel accommodations, retail and restaurants.

Keiller said a similar sailing center in Jensen Beach “attracted 3,000 visitors one year. That’s 2,000 hotel overnights at a total of $673,000 in direct economic impact put into the county. Of course, the trickle-down effect makes it over $1 million. The centers can really be economic drivers.”