PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports that the clock is running to build a new cruise terminal and parking garage east of the port's Cove restaurant row.
Port commissioners unanimously approved the $80 million project on Wednesday, and port Chief Executive Officer John Walsh says the complex needs to be ready by Nov. 15, 2014, to handle expected new cruise business.
The 185,000-square-foot terminal will be designed to handle the largest cruise ships on the drawing board — ones that can carry as many as 6,000 passengers.
Walsh said he expects to announce deals for two new Port Canaveral-based cruise ships by the end of this year related to the new cruise terminal, which also will be used by port-of-call ships.
Walsh said he has been in discussion with longtime Port Canaveral cruise line customers Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean about expanding their local operations. He said he has also had initial discussions with three other cruise lines that would be new to Port Canaveral.
Each new large cruise ship based at Port Canaveral represents a $250 million annual economic impact to the region, as well as 2,500 direct and spinoff jobs, Walsh said.
"The dynamics of it are just phenomenal," Walsh said. "This port is a very positive economic engine for the region."
Walsh said Port Canaveral eventually will need three more new cruise terminals, as he expects the port's cruise business to double in the next 10 to 15 years.
The port has short lists of companies to build the terminal, parking garage and gangways. Commissioners will choose the winning proposals and authorize the contracts at a future meeting.
Preliminary site work is expected to begin this week, with the construction itself likely to be underway by January.
Walsh said, on average, 500 people will be working on the building the cruise terminal complex over its yearlong construction period.
Walsh said the Cruise Terminal 1 site "is an ideal strategic location for both homeport large ships and midweek port-of-call ships. The development is both fiscally strong and provides synergy with the Cove development."
Cruise Terminal 1 will be within walking distance to the port's just-opened seven-story Exploration Tower, which has observation decks, exhibits and interactive displays. The cruise terminal also will be convenient for port-of-call ship passengers and crew members looking for off-ship dining or shopping in the port's Cove restaurant and retail area, and will be a departure point for excursions to such Space Coast attractions as the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, ecotourism venues, Cocoa Beach and Cocoa Village.
Walsh said, after people see what the Space Coast has to offer, "we hope that, next time they come back here, and they stay, that they add a week or they add a couple of days on the front end, and they realize we're just not a place to go through, that we're a destination in itself."
As part the port's project, a recreational boat ramp area will be built just west of the port's Jetty Park to replace one that will be torn down at Freddie Patrick Park when the new Cruise Terminal 1 opens.
Walsh said he is pleased to get the support of port commissioners and the community for the project.
But he knows that there's much work ahead.
"It's just the start. We never celebrate at the start," Walsh said. "There is a lot of work that has to happen. It's massive, but it's humbling at the same time to have that opportunity to be a steward of our good predecessors that left us in good shape. We just want to roll up our sleeves and get to work for our community."