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Council weighs marina lease extension

Boats rest at their docks at Barker’s Island Marina in Superior on Monday afternoon. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

A recommendation for a 14-year extension of the lease between the city and Sailboats Inc. will be brought before the Superior City Council tonight.

Sailboats Inc. has operated the Barker's Island Marina for the city since 1980. Initially, the company had a 20-year lease. That was followed by a 10-year lease and the current five-year extension, which expires in 2022. If approved tonight, the 14-year extension would keep Sailboats Inc. at the helm through April 2036.

During Thursday's Finance Committee Meeting Eric Thomas, CEO of Sailboats Inc., said that the company intends to pour $200,000 worth of capital improvements into the property, which is owned by the city, but only if they have a long-term lease.

The business, which employs 30 in Superior and five on the Knife River, has already spent $40,000 to construct a wifi system for its customers. In addition to building improvements, Thomas said they plan to upgrade the phone system.

While the boating industry took a hit during the recession from 2008-2015, Barker's Island Marina continued to grow. Boat sales may have plummeted, but the need for places to berth them remained steady.

"The boats aren't going away; people have them," Thomas said.

The key, he said, is getting the new generation interested in boating.

Sailboats Inc. has grown its service business, becoming a regional hub.

"We're on a health growth trend," Thomas said. "We have capacity; we have dockage."

And the business has been making room for the larger 40- and 50-foot boats. Thomas said that about 75 percent of the marina's clients are from the region, most from the Twin Cities.

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