Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Should Excelsior be home to fewer charter boats?

An article in today's West Metro section of the Strib discussed a suggestion that Excelsior convert one existing charter boat dock into a combination residential and transient dock. In case you haven't been following, Excelsior is considering adding a 4th dock. They have been directed by the Lake Minnetonka governing board to ensure it is at least partially transient, so as to not simply add more boats to the lake. This proposal, to convert an existing charter dock instead of build a new dock, is interesting and probably deserves consideration.

The article pointed out that while the city does quite well from the revenue of residential docks, they actually subsidize (lose money) on the charter docks. This is because while charter boats pay a fee to use the docks, they also require services that exceed that fee.

It seems like the question central to this issue is: Do the charter boats attract business that is good for Excelsior? Or do they simply attract people who use the charter boats? If it is the former, that people who wouldn't otherwise go to Excelsior patronize the gas stations, the restaurants, the Pubs, the ice-cream shops and so on, then you can make the case that the boats are a boon for the city. However, if the people who use the charter boats tend to drive to Excelsior, park in the free lots, consume their liquor and food on the boats and then go home, I can see how there is a case for converting the docks to residential or combination.

The fact is that there are relatively few locations that work as well as downtown Excelsior for the charter boats. It is close to ample, free parking. It requires that people who live in Minneapolis take a relatively fast highway (7) for most of the drive to the boat. It is a heck of a lot closer for most Twin Cities residents than most other options. And it has a Commons area and downtown for people to hang around in before and after the cruise.

Perhaps Excelsior is perfect for the charter boats.... but are the charter boats perfect for Excelsior? Would Excelsior be better or worse off without the charters? I'm interested in your thoughts.

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