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Sep. 23, 2018
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Margaritaville has landed at Lanier

By Pamela A. Keene
 
Margaritaville at Lanier Islands has just started dipping its toes in the water, but already there are many early signs that the newest addition to the resort is riding a tidal wave of success. A VIP event in mid-June focused on the completion of major components of Phase I of the transition to Margaritaville at Lanier Islands.
 
So far, Safe Harbor Development has invested more than $11 million in improvements, upgrades and infrastructure, including between $700,000 and $800,000 to install underground fiber for communications and technology. Updates also included bringing in 1,200 tons of Florida sand and expanding and rebranding the rides and attractions. The $11 million figure, however, is a drop in the bucket of what the company says it plans to spend at the Islands – a whopping $250 million. Safe Harbor is developing Margaritaville at Lanier Islands in a long-term contract with Lake Lanier Islands Management.
 
At the grand opening, officials teased a possible future visit by Jimmy Buffett to Margaritaville. “Jimmy will eventually be here,” said John Cohlan, Margaritaville CEO and Buffett’s business partner. “I can tell you that one of Jimmy Buffett’s biggest kicks is to land his seaplane on the water.” Although no official announcement has been made about Buffett coming to Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, just his name association and new branding has increased numbers at the park.
 
“Attendance has been on the rise every weekend and our Margaritaville cruises have been selling out,” said Darby Campbell, owner of Safe Harbor. The company is licensed to use the Margaritaville brand. It has other locations across the Southeast, including, Margaritaville Island Hotel in Pigeon Forge and Marina and its newest venture, Margaritaville Hotel in Nashville. The company also manages 12 marinas in the eastern U.S. 
 
Guests coming to Margaritaville this summer will be immersed in the island lifestyle. From newly themed restaurants to beachside-side palapas (palm frond-topped shelters) and plenty of artificial coconut palms, it’s full-tilt party time in the Jimmy Buffett spirit.
 
The beach area has been rebranded into two areas – Paradise Beach, focused more on family activities, food and adventures, and Landshark Landing, more attuned to adults, but children are also allowed. The former Sunset Cove Restaurant is now Landshark Bar & Grill. Located at the south side of Margaritaville, it has easy access to the courtesy docks. A floating stage and big screen bring entertainment to the beach.
 
Heading northeast along the east side of the beach, several food-specific food outlets offer burgers, Mexican food and seafood selections. Called the “Chill Zone,” it offers pizza at Frank & Lola’s, burritos, chips, tacos at Paradise Cantina, gourmet hot dogs and burgers at L2C Grill and seafood and other snacks at Feeding Frenzy Fried Shack. 
 
“Our goal is to keep the food affordable and provide quick service,” said John Lush, chief operations officer with Safe Harbor Development, who had been directly overseeing the Lake Lanier project. He said that many guest checks average less than $10, depending on what is ordered. Draft beers, sangria, mixed drinks, frozen drinks and adult beverages are available at several restaurants and food outlets.
 
“We plan to continue many of the events that Lanier Islands has presented, including Full Moon Parties and Magical Nights of Lights,” Campbell said. “We’ll also be adding special events and activities, including our Teachers’ Tuesdays.” This promotion, good on Tuesdays throughout the summer, offers 50 percent off waterpark admission for teachers and two guests with a valid school teacher ID.” 
 
Formal remarks during the grand opening event also referenced the possibility of another hotel being built at Lanier Islands on the site of the former PineIsle Resort. (See sidebar about LLIDA below.) Plans for Football broadcasts with tailgate parties and a Beerfest in the fall are in the  works.
 
Landshark Landing will host events associated with the Pirates of Lanier Charity Poker Run in mid-July. It’s a sign of Margaretaville’s commitment to community involvement. 
 
“This company began 40 years ago with a song and look where we’ve come,” Cohlan said. “It’s time for our own island of adventure, and we have a vision to turn this into the greatest entertainment destination in the Southeast.”
 
Margaritaville at Lanier Islands offers one-day admissions and two levels of season passes. For more information and the latest about events and special promotions, visit www.lanierislands.com/margaritaville.


LLIDA moving forward to select vendor for market study
 
The Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, the state agency that oversees the management of Lake Lanier Islands on behalf of the state, has received two responses to its recent request for proposals for possible further development at the resort. Deadline for submissions was June 15. 
 
The authority announced the RFP earlier this year to hire a consulting firm to do a market evaluation, planning and conceptual design services for a new conference center at Lanier Islands. The study will address the feasibility and recommendations about a new hotel and conference center on the former PineIsle Resort site.
 
LLIDA officials from its infrastructure committee will review the two RFPs and the board convene at a special meeting later this year to review the committee’s recommendations and finalize the decision. “We hope to have a package in place by November 1,” said Lonice Barrett, chair of LLIDA at the group’s quarterly meeting in June.
 
Grier Todd, chief operating officer of Lanier Islands, announced plans by Lake Lanier Islands Management to enclose the pavilion at Peachtree Point. “Our wedding business is really taken off, and by enclosing the 10,000-square-foot pavilion, climatizing it, adding lighting and carpet we can use it for wedding receptions.”

Posted online 6/29/18
 
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