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Feds consider boardwalk, pier for MPB

By Joe K. Onyou, The Islander

A Chicago snowbird has proposed the construction of a pier at Manatee Public Beach similar to the famed Navy Pier in his hometown. A merry-go-round is proposed but not a Ferris wheel. Islander Photo: Courtesy Navy Pier

The U.S. Bureau of Amusements and Entertainment will inspect Manatee Public Beach April 1 to determine whether a $22 million grant might be available to build a carnivalesque boardwalk and long pier at the site.

Federal officials recently announced that millions of dollars remain from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act due to substantial savings in initial projects.

A hail-Mary petition from a snowbird seeking a new pier to replace a structure demolished in late 2010 led to the federal review. In late 2010, Manatee County contracted for the demolition of a pier deemed structurally unsound. The top of the pier was taken down last year, and this spring removal of the foundation has taken place.

County officials, when the old pier was taken down, had focused on what type of pier — long or short — might be built in its place.

However, with local officials dealing with major budget cuts and the state dealing with budget shortfalls, finding money for a replacement pier seemed increasingly unlikely.

But in February, attorney John Da Bears, a snowbird from Chicago, read about the leftover stimulus funds and decided to lobby for a new pier similar to Navy Pier in the Windy City.

Navy Pier, which stretches into Lake Michigan, contains a 50-acre playground and features a 15-story Ferris wheel, retail shops, restaurants, an Imax theater and a ballroom. The attraction draws about 8.6 million visitors a year.

“I don’t think Holmes Beach could handle anything that big,” Da Bears said. “So I proposed a long fishing pier, with a couple of retail kiosks, a restaurant, a puppet theater and a merry-go-round. That makes more sense than a Ferris wheel.”

Da Bears wrote letters to congressional representatives, as well as various agency heads. A grant-handler at the Bureau of Amusements and Entertainment took notice.

Federal officials planned to visit the site early April 1.

“We want to be out there for breakfast,” said a spokesman for the bureau. “We heard the cafe has all-you-can-eat pancakes.”

Editor’s note: Happy April Fool’s Day — a bit early.

10 Responses to Feds consider boardwalk, pier for MPB

  1. Andy Parkinson says:

    A new pier will be a major benefit to AMI and increase tourism. I recommend, however, that the merry-go-round be replaced by an outdoor ice rink. This would be a unique feature that attracts visitors from all over Florida; especially during the summer.

  2. Phen says:

    Sounds like a set up for a routine from Saturday Night Live; “Da Bears”.

    ….. Bears 14; 49er’s negative 12; “Ditka will find a way.”

    Anybody remember that one?

  3. walter sims says:

    You have got to be kidding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why do we listen to what the snowbirds recommend, leave the island the way it is- if you want an amusement park go to
    Disney World!!!!!! Now you know why there are not many people left that live here full time- what used to be a peaceful place to live has turned into a nightmare!!! This island does NOT need an amusement park!!! People come here to relax and get away from it all!!! I am sick and tired of people coming here for a week and then deciding the island needs this and that!! As it is all the old houses are being torn down for another real estate company!!! Now to all the people that read this don’t get your panties in a wad and think I am bashing tourists- there’s always someone out there! I have made many a friends to people from up north its just a select few that can’t leave it alone. I live in a condo by the beach with my family and some of the retirees that come from up north do not like that we have children that live where they come to stay- rent a 55 and over if you do not like it, this beautiful island is shared by many- young and old. But PLEASE do not add this to the island, it would forever ruin it!!!!!!!!

  4. RICK COOK says:

    As a regular vacation visitor to Anna Maria Island from the UK (once, sometimes twice a year) my heart sank when I read this news item online…then I saw the Editor’s footnote…now I can relax again and look forward to my next visit with my wife in APRIL !

  5. Paula Olivero says:

    Ya had me going….ready to rally against it then I saw the editor’s note. Good one!

  6. danny boyd says:

    You mean Da Chicago Bears, right?

  7. Cathie Lowney says:

    Oh my goodness – I was totally fooled and thank goodness this IS NOT TRUE!!!!

  8. Cathie Lowney says:

    So glad this was an April Fools! You got me – and so glad it’s not true! The Tiki Hut at the Gulf Drive Cafe is enough!

  9. Meris Thomas says:

    This is some kind of horrific April Fools joke right???? It better be!

  10. Steve Spangler says:

    With the federal government borrowing 40% of it’s annual operating budget every year, there is NO MONEY “left over” for these types of projects ANYWHERE. This year alone we have a 1.65 TRILLION DOLLAR DEFICIT. Sorry folks, just time for a little common sense reality.

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